May 4 was a beautiful day in Angels Camp. Puffy white clouds floated serenely in the sky and the temperature was comfortably in the mid 70s. It was a good day… to blow up things.
Evan Lacks of Tomball, Texas, has been struggling with leukemia for about half of his 8 years of life. Through a Make-a-Wish foundation Evan got to do some gold panning in California and then do what a lot of 8-year-old boys want to do: blow things up. And with a little help from the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department Explosive Ordinance Unit he got to do just that.
At the Carson Hill Rock Quarry a few miles south of Angels Camp Calaveras County Sheriffs Sgt. Blain Smith went over the safety rules and explained what was going to happen. The bomb squad had set up six explosions. The first four would be detonations of increasing strength. It’s typically what they would do to dispose of unwanted explosives (he said that a lot of what they do is get rid of old dynamite found in barns and storage shed around the Lode). There would be lots of sound and flying dust to the blasts, but visually they wouldn’t be all that exciting. The last two explosions would be what they called “Hollywood” blasts, designed more for flashiness than for actual damage.
We were all set back on a ridge a couple hundred yards away from the blast area and Evan was given a remote detonator to set of the first bomb. He pressed the button and a mighty boom road along with a puff of dust from the ground. Evan handed over the detonator to his family members to give it a try and covered his ears. As Smith said each blast was bigger than the previous one with the last two being very startling, despite the fact we knew that they were coming and sending up great plumes of dirt and dust.
Then came time for the “Hollywood” explosions. The first one Smith called “the wall of fire.” When Evan pushed the button four gallons of gasoline, set about 10 feet apart in 1-gallon milk jugs, exploded and, as Smith said, became a firery wall of flame. We could feel the heat from the blast despite the distance between us and it.
For the last one the boom squad stacked two old tires together. One contained an explosive while the other was fill with gas. When the bomb went off it ignited the fuel and sent a burning tire rocketing about 100 feet into the air, looking sort of like a meteor in reverse.
At the end they gave Evan and his family a tour of the craters left by the bombs.
The bomb squad made Evan an honorary member and gave him an official bomb squad shirt and he beamed as only and 8-year-old can. It was a good day to begin with but for Evan Lacks the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department Explosive Ordinance Unit made it a great day.