Decades Old Canisters Destroyed in North Bay Explosion

The box was part of disaster relief for the hospital and was packed in 1957.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Authorities safely detonated a volatile and dangerous crate of  decades-old ether in "one shot" at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga  this afternoon, a Napa County sheriff's captain said.

    At 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.