CALISTOGA (CBS SF) – Authorities safely detonated a volatile and dangerous crate of decades-old ether in “one shot” at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga Tuesday afternoon, a Napa County sheriff’s captain said.

About 12:30 p.m., Calistoga residents heard a loud explosion when the 96 quarter-pound canisters of highly explosive ether were detonated using a counter-charge, Capt. Tracey Stuart said.

The ether was found in a wooden crate at the fairgrounds on Monday during a hazardous materials collection event, Calistoga police said.

The crate was marked that it was packaged in March 1957, and sheriff’s officials said it was originally part of a stash of disaster supplies for a 200-bed hospital and had been stored at the fairgrounds for decades.

Stuart said authorities were lucky they could move the ether to an unpopulated field in the fairgrounds and take care of it in one explosion.

The explosion created “quite an impressive fire ball,” which burned off the ether nearly instantaneously, Stuart said.

“You could smell the ether,” Stuart said about the explosion. “As soon as it was up, it was gone.”

Everything in the area is safe and residents can go about their regular routine, she said.

Stuart had said prior to the explosion that detonating the canisters was the only way to get rid of it.

Sheriff’s officials contacted residents of nine nearby homes about 30 minutes prior to the detonation warning them to either evacuate the area or stay inside while the detonation took place, Stuart said.

Stuart said the explosion left some debris and a one-foot hole in the ground, which fairgrounds staff are cleaning up, she said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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