SOLVANG, Calif. (AP) — An old but still potentially explosive military shell that was found in an alley was safely destroyed early Thursday, ending an evacuation that emptied hundreds of homes and businesses in this Central California tourist town.
A 911 caller Wednesday afternoon sent Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies to Solvang's main business district, where they found a 105mm shell lying in trash in an alley.
The 18-inch-long shell "appeared to be old and had been fired at some point, but because the fusing system was still in place, the device was considered potentially unstable and able to cause widespread damage if it exploded," sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said in a statement.
Over the next hours, deputies cleared a 1,500-foot radius around the area, and by Wednesday night, an estimated 500 to 700 people had been evacuated from homes, businesses and hotels, Hoover said.
The American Red Cross set up a shelter where several hundred people waited.
The Sheriff's Department bomb squad and a bomb disposal team from Vandenberg Air Force Base retrieved the shell shortly after midnight and blew it up as a safety precaution at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Hoover said.
"Right now, it's unknown where the military ordnance came from. Even though they are not meant for public use, they can be purchased online," Hoover said.
Solvang, a town of about 5,000, is nestled in the popular wine-growing Santa Ynez Valley about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It has long been a tourist attraction for its Danish-themed buildings and food, which reflect its founding in 1911 by Danish-American immigrants from the Midwest.
It was one of the settings used in the 2004 movie "Sideways."