The Santa Barbara County Bomb Squad, Hazardous Materials Unit and Fire Dept. responded to a potentially explosive situation on Tuesday afternoon when two jars filled with a material believed to be crystallized picric acid were found.
The jars were discovered in a pathology lab on the 300 block of Patterson Avenue. Picric acid, a derivative of phenol, becomes sensitive to explosion when it reacts with metal and can be easily detonated by heat, flame, shock or friction.
Approximately 50 people were evacuated and the bomb squad used a remote-controlled robot to enter the laboratory and bring the containers down the elevator and out of the building.
“They sent the robot in there and used cameras to maneuver the robot,” Fire Dept. Capt. Charlie Johnson said. “The containers were placed in a trash can filled with dirt and were taken down the elevator to a bomb trailer. The operators were in the parking lot several feet away.”
The containers were put in a bomb trailer – a cylindrical device designed to explode upward instead of outward – and transported to the Tajiguas landfill for detonation. Law enforcement officers followed the bomb trailer to the landfill and would not allow any vehicles to pass.
“They kept everybody back at a safe distance until they got to the landfill site,” Johnson said. “A significant explosion occurred, and it most probably was picric acid in crystallized form.”
No one was hurt in the incident.