CALISTOGA — Bomb technicians from the Napa County Sheriff's Office blew up an old crate of ether on Tuesday afternoon, discovered in a long-forgotten disaster cache at the Napa County Fairgrounds.
The fairgrounds were closed much of the day, but there were only limited, voluntary evacuations of seven nearby residences. Officials said there was never any immediate danger to anyone, but that the only safe and economical way to dispose of the volatile liquid was to blow it up in a controlled way.
"The containers are starting to degrade,” Napa County Sheriff John Robertson told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday before the blast. “Ether, when it dries out, forms a peroxide."
The material would burn up quickly in the explosion and eliminate the risk of any contamination, he said.
"We're pretty much going to vaporize any type of peroxide element," Robertson said. "It burns very clean."
City workers filled hundreds of sandbags to surround the ether. The detonation, which was moved to a nearby field, shook the town around 12:30 p.m. Officers had planned to stage the destruction in several explosions, but eventually decided to do it all at once.