An arsenal of bug bombs did more than kill the roaches Monday at a home for the developmentally disabled. It touched off an explosion that raised part of the roof, dislocated two walls and shattered windows in the four-bedroom house, authorities said.
Investigators blamed a combustible mix of more than 50 bug bombs that detonated near a pilot light from a gas stove.
“They were fumigating for bugs and they kind of overdid it,” said Karl Feierabend, a Santa Ana Fire Department spokesman. “It could have been worse.”
No one was injured in the 9:30 a.m. blast, which sent an enormous boom through the 600 block of South Townsend Street. “The explosion was so rapid that there wasn’t enough time for a fire to ignite,” Feierabend said.
The explosion caused an estimated $125,000 in damage, causing a back wall to swing open “like a door” about 10 feet from the house, and scattering shards of glass inside and out of the home, Feierabend said. The roof “lifted and set down again,” he said.
The house was empty when the blast occurred. The owner declined to comment Monday as a team of firefighters used giant fans to air out the house and assembled rows of spent bug bombs on the front patio.
Three developmentally disabled adults are currently placed at the home, although one was in the hospital when the blast occurred, said Diane Hawthorne, licensing program supervisor with the state Community Care Licensing office, which monitors group homes.
Monday morning, two of the residents stood outside among piles of clothes and other belongings that had been removed in preparation for the fumigation. The two were moved to a another home later in the day, Hawthorne said.
“We are investigating the matter,” she said. ‘But it appears to me right now that it was accidental. I mean, I never thought about the possibility of something like this happening.”
Feierabend said the home has a roach infestation from a large amount of food accumulated over the past few months.
At least 57 Max and Hot Shots pesticide bombs had been set off Monday morning to rid the 1,300-square-foot structure of bugs, authorities said. Each canister typically covers 200 to 500 square feet, Feierabend said.
Steve Hill, deputy agricultural commissioner for Orange County, which investigates improper use of pesticides, said the explosion could have been prevented if the occupants had followed the instructions on the canisters. “Had they used the pesticide at a proper level, there shouldn’t be a problem even with a pilot light on,” Hill said. “Of course, you should always turn any pilot lights off, as the labels instruct.”
In the summer, more people will be using pesticides to kill roaches and fleas and investigators stressed the importance of reading labels on canisters and extinguishing pilot lights in stoves and water heaters.
“It is a violation of the law to not follow label instructions,” Hill said. “That includes using way beyond the amount [of pesticides] that the label allows you to use.”
Monday’s explosion was the second in Orange County involving pesticide bombs this year.
In April, a similar explosion blew a screen door into a yard across the street, shattered windows and melted the carpet of a Westminster apartment, fire officials said.
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Insect Foggers Blast
Excessive use of insect foggers triggered an explosion at a Santa Ana home Monday morning, causing $125,000 in damage. Authorities report more than 50 canisters were used. A stove pilot light probably ignited the petroleum base in the insecticide. The damage:
Roof: Back portion lifted off
Glass: Numerous broken windows
Walls: Blown out in two places
Insect Fogger Safety Tips
Chemicals emitted by household insect foggers are flammable and may explode if exposed to an open flame, such as a pilot light. How to use insect foggers safely:
* Read directions: Foggers differ according to manufacturer; follow directions for specific brand used.
* Determine square footage: Fogger use is based on room size; to figure square footage, multiply length of room times width.
* Don’t use more than needed: Using more foggers than recommended is potentially hazardous; if insects persist, repeat application is safer and more effective.
* Turn off pilot lights: Gas appliances have an open-flame pilot light. Turning off the appliance or blowing out pilot is not enough; turn shut-off valve to off position.
* In kitchen: Put all food, dishes and eating utensils in a covered area.
* Pets: Do not leave pets in house during fogging; remove all pet food, water and food dishes.
* Children: Put all bedding, clothing and toys in covered area.
* Setting fogger: Follow package directions and leave house immediately; do not return before end of specified time.
* Airing out: Open windows and doors to admit fresh air. Fans help circulate fresh air more effectively. Air house for at least the amount of time specified on package.
* In kitchen: Wipe down tabletops and all food preparation surfaces with water and detergent.
* Pilot lights: Must be lit again according to directions. Do not allow large amounts of gas to escape before igniting. Gas company representatives will light free of charge if necessary.
* Children and pets: Extra caution should be taken to wipe down surfaces and objects mouthed by infants and pets. Dead insects pose a particular fascination and should be disposed.
Source: Santa Ana Fire Department
Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times