Crazy things in Marin

I blogged yesterday about the terrorist threat against children. Today, I learned that, although it was almost certainly a prank, not a terrorist threat, our community takes seriously things that just don’t look right. Unbeknownst to me, the whole saga started early this morning a week ago in Mill Valley:

Window-rattling explosions woke up hundreds of Mill Valley residents this morning. That was followed by the discovery of dozens of unexploded commercial grade fireworks and a professional launcher. Several blocks of Hamilton Road near Eucalpytus Knoll were closed while the bomb squad dealt with the situation. The loudest blast went off about 10:00 am, but that was not the only explosion in Mill Valley today. It started early this morning with a series of fireworks blasts.

“About 5:30 in the morning I was wakened out of a dead sleep by a huge amount of noise, it sounded like fireworks,” said Nana Meyer, Mill Valley.

Members of the fire and police departments responded from their shared public safety building just a couple hundred yards away.

“We immediately sealed off the area, did a closer evaluation with binoculars and saw what appeared to be fuses and fireworks,” said Batt. Chief Jeff Davidson, Mill Valley Fire Dept.

The UC Bomb Suad Unit was called in. A camera carrying robot showed emergency personnel at least 40 explosives inside their firing tubes, just like you see at professional fireworks displays on the 4th of July.

The unexploded fireworks were then disposed of — showing off how much damage they could have done.

Now the million dollar question is who did this? Who put professional commercial fireworks on an out of the way street in Mill Valley and set some off only to have their delay fuses not work? Police don’t know, they’re looking at the empty tubes and other evidence right now.

I probably wouldn’t even have known about this story if it weren’t for the fact that this afternoon, in the same town, at an area next to a school and ringed by soccer fields, someone spotted a suspicious package and called it in. The police came, as did the firefighters, and they evacuated the immediate area. They then sent for the bomb squad (again), which blew up the package, to the great delight of all the children playing on adjacent soccer fields.

This afternoon’s package probably was related to the weird fireworks display that startled Mill Valley this morning. Had it gone off, though, situated as it was in an area where hundreds of kids pass through during the day, the human damage could have been tremendous. I was very glad to see local law enforcement taking the matter seriously. It was inconvenient, but worth that inconvenience.

UPDATE: Aside from correcting when the fireworks went off in Mill Valley (see above), I now have more information about the Bomb Squad call-in yesterday:

A bomb squad was called to Mill Valley for the second time in a week Wednesday, this time to destroy a mysterious can labeled as a potential explosive.

The object, which police said looked like a rusty quart-size paint can, was discovered at 1:30 p.m. at the entrance to the city corporation yard at 450 Sycamore Ave. The can had a manufacturer’s label indicating it was flammable or explosive, but the label did not say what the substance was.

Police said the can contained a crystalline material that appeared old and solidified. The substance appeared to be wrapped in wax paper, said Mill Valley fire Battalion Chief Jim Rey.

“Since we weren’t able to identify it, we treated it as the worst-case scenario,” he said.

Authorities summoned a bomb squad from the University of California at Berkeley, which detonated the can around 5:30 p.m. in a hole dug with a backhoe. Police briefly closed the end of Sycamore Avenue, a bike path and the nearby soccer field during the detonation.

Rey said it was unclear why the substance was dropped off at the corporation yard, but he said someone might have erroneously considered it an official waste disposal site. The property is also the location of the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin.

As Zabrina noted in her comment, it’s impossible to tell if these things are pranks or dry-runs, so the community has to take them seriously.


One Response

  1. Unpleasant thought: these events might have been staged as dry runs by terrorists to see how communities respond. If you are around such happenings, keep an eye out for suspicious characters casing how first-respondents operate, and if you see anything at all of note, turn in your report to the authorities. Most communities have anonymous hotlines set up for just this kind of information from citizens.

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