Cold weather and duct tape may have kept a makeshift bomb from rupturing suddenly Sunday morning and splashing passers-by with hydrochloric acid, fire officials said.
The San Mateo County Hazardous Materials team and bomb squads responded Sunday after a youth kicked a two-liter plastic bottle filled with fluid and wrapped in duct tape, splashing its contents onto the legs of a nearby girl, according to Steve Cavallero, battalion chief with the Redwood City Fire Department. When the liquid began eating holes in the girl’s nylons, her parents rinsed her legs and called 911.
Crews closed one block of Harrison Avenue and two blocks of Grand Street, where the bottle was found, from 10:15 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. to neutralize the acid and clear the scene, Cavallero said.
Tests confirmed that the liquid was hydrochloric acid, strong enough to cause skin irritation and even burns, Cavallero said. The chemical is commonly available from pool-supply stores, said Capt. Rod English with the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, which
runs the county’s Hazmat operations.
“It was probably kids with a prank, and their intent was to have it burst,” Cavallero said. “Bombs” can be made by immersing a piece of metal in acid in a sealed container. As the acid dissolves the metal, pressure builds and the bottle explodes.
Hazmat officials said this is the fourth time they’ve seen “bombs” like these. Three others were found in Woodside late last year, including a Drano-filled bottle left on a trailhead on Old La HondaRoad, said English.
“Someone told me that kids are [doing this] and videotaping it, and posting it on YouTube,” English said. “People who see it get the direction on how to do it … It’s kind of a trend right now.”