Bombs in Homestead

September, 2012

On Friday, December 17, 2004, our young French friend Matthieu arrived from Paris with his newly acquired bride, Sylvie. It was the first stop on their honeymoon. Saturday evening we had a dinner party for them and our son and daughter-in-law. Part of the dinner table conversation touched upon recent events in Paris: strikes, protests, car-burnings and bombings. We agreed that things were much less eventful here in Homestead Valley.

During dinner a tremendous explosion shook the house. It seemed to have originated above Tamalpais Canyon which is adjacent to our home. Six more explosions followed over the next hour or so, three of them as loud as the first. Our French guests were pretty much shaken up by this event and so were we. We assured them that this was highly unusual.

The Sunday and Monday editions of the IJ and the Chronicle reported what happened. On Saturday at 1 pm, a hiker found partially buried rusted drab-green military-style ammunitions canisters 30 or 40 feet off an open space trail about 100 feet from the end of Castle Rock Drive which is located above Tamalpais Canyon at the upper end of the valley. He called the Sheriff who called the UC Berkeley bomb squad.

At 3:30 in the afternoon, thirty families were evacuated from their homes on Castle Rock Drive. It was determined that the explosives were too unstable to move, making it necessary to detonate them in place. The bomb squad investigated the site and discovered a larger quantity of explosives than initially suspected. They blew up the hazardous material with seven detonations, the last one at 10:45 pm. Residents were then allowed to return to their homes. The blasts blew in a window in the nearest house.

Seven separate canisters containing tetrytol were detonated by members of the University of California and Travis Air Force Base bomb squads. The explosions left a crater about 10 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Tetrytol is a high explosive bursting charge used for demolition, mining and artillery shells. It contains two explosives: 25% TNT (trinitrotoluene) and 75% tetryl (2,4,6-trinitrophenyl-N-methylnitramine). The Department of Homeland Security was briefed about the explosions.

Some of the canisters had been buried and all of them appeared to have been there for several years. But the Marin County Sheriff’s Department said that nobody knows how long the explosives had been there or who put them there. The uncertainty led to widespread speculation. One long time resident of Castle Rock Drive said, “My guess is that it probably goes back to the radical times we had in the 70s. It’s an isolated, woodsy area. Maybe somebody buried it with the intent to use it later.”

Bombs in Homestead? So much for “things are less eventful here.”

Miss Holland gave Brian Shea an A on his biography with the comment, “Beautiful!”

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