ESCONDIDO, Calif. - In the end, there were no big explosions. No flames leaping from house to house. Just residents, watching anxiously as a house packed with explosives in their neighborhood went up in flames.
All of it, thankfully, without a hitch.
"I feel better," said Pat MacQueen, 76, standing on a porch Thursday as reddish-orange flames rose into the sky.
The blaze devoured a ranch-style house filled with so much homemade explosive material that authorities said they had no choice but to burn it to the ground.
MacQueen and other residents were still haunted by the home's renter - George Jakubec. How did he amass so much explosive material, and what did he plan to do with it?
Investigators are still trying to find those answers as Jakubec, 54, an out-of-work software consultant, sits in jail on bombmaking and bank-robbery charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Their immediate concern, however, disintegrated in less than an hour.
The plan was to stoke a fire so hot - at least 1,800 degrees - that it would neutralize the volatile chemicals before they could cause major explosions. Crews built a 16-foot firewall and covered it with fire-resistant gel to protect the closest home, at least a dozen feet away.
Nearly all of the home was destroyed in about 30 minutes.
Officials said they received no reports of high levels of pollutants in the air.
Authorities planned to assess the property and then bring in hazardous-material crews to remove two to six inches of topsoil from the half-acre lot to ensure that no dangerous residue was left behind.