How to Deal With a Crazy Dude Whose House is Full of Explosive Material

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The dude, not so difficult, really: put him in jail.  But then you still have a very tough question:  what do you do with the house?


He and his home chemistry operation seem to have been too much for local law enforcement, who (at least at last report) bailed out of the house and haven't finished searching it yet. That sounds like an excellentdecision - you couldn't pay me to go in the place and poke around. On the one hand, perhaps his lab technique wasn't so bad: he was able to work in those quantities without blowing himself up. But on the other hand, and by golly this hand wins, anyone who makes kilos of such things at home has very skewed ideas about risk, to the point that you don't really know what they're capable of. The owner's day job appears to have been robbing banks, which fits right in.

The latest news is a decision that the only way to deal with the house is to burn it. A sixteen-foot fire-resistant wall is being built around the place, and they're just going to let it rip. Beats going around in there opening drawers and looking under the sink, for sure.

Of course, this is not something you should do lightly.  Luckily for nearby homeowners, authorities seem to be pretty serious:

Officials say there is no safe way to remove all the explosives from the house, so the best way to neutralize the danger is to burn the house to the ground. They plan to evacuate 200 homes, build temporary fire-safe walls between the house and its neighbors, spray the wall and neighboring houses with fire-retardant foam, pre-heat the house so it ignites quickly, then start a fire. They plan to wait until a time after morning rush hour when the winds are calm before starting the fire. They will need to close part of nearby interstate 15 because of the house's proximity to the highway. Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency for San Diego County.

Still, I'd be making sure that the homeowner's policy is up-to-date.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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