The Stanislaus County sheriff's bomb squad closed an Oakdale Street Friday morning and blew up a pipe that had been found on the roof of an Oakdale electrical shop.
Officials said they didn't believe the device was a bomb.
Acie Wilkins, owner of Wilkins Electrical since 1964, sat on the corner of Sierra Avenue outside his neighbor's iron works shop. He said one of his workers found the capped pipe around 8 a.m.
"It looked like it had been up there for two or three years," Wilkins said. "It really felt too light (to be a bomb)."
To be safe, Wilkins called Oakdale police and after the first officer arrived on the the scene, Cpl. Joe Johnson turned to the sheriff's bomb squad.
Deputies dug a small hole across the street from the shop and next to a fence around the yard at A.L. Gilbert Feed Mill. The shop is about two blocks from the center of Oakdale.
Then Sgt. John Hallford donned protective gear, walked into Wilkins Electric and used a four-foot handling arm to grab and carry the device to the hole. He then retrieved a detonator from the bomb squad truck.
After wiring the detonator to the pipe, he covered the hole with two pallets. Police then cleared a 200-foot perimeter.
A deputy yelled, "Fire in the hole!" and a boom worthy of the Fourth of July exploded the pipe at 10:47 a.m. The smoke and dirt erupted four feet or so and quickly dissipated.
Hallford briefly looked at the remains of the pipe and said chemical analysis would have to determine whether it really was a bomb. He said he didn't think so, because there was "no additional flash or blast," just the detonator.
Wilkins sighed at the latest drama for his business. "I can't afford theft insurance. It's too expensive." He said burglars and thieves had been hitting him almost monthly for years.
"Last month they took a copper spool of wire," he said. That was worth several thousand dollars.
"An alarm is no good because there are so many cats," said Wilkins. "The police come out two, three times and don't see anything, they won't come back. They can't afford to."
When a deputy gave the all clear sign, Wilkins smiled. "It's time to go back to work."
Staff Writer Roger W. Hoskins may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or 578-2311.