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'Mythbusters' test results in unexpected blast that rattles nearby town

By John Bracchitta, 03/31/2009 

Discovery Channel's Mythbusters has inadvertently answered a question that it never intended to solve: Is it possible to startle an entire town with a single mannequin?

Apparently if you blow one up using 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate, yes it is.

The residents of Esparto, a small northern California town in Yolo County, were recently shocked when an explosion for an upcoming Mythbusters experiment that was using 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate to "knock the socks off" a mannequin created a bigger blast than anyone on the show had been expecting, NBC's KNTV-TV affiliate in San Francisco Mythbusters-Blasts-Scares-Small-Town.html">reported Friday.

The resulting aftershock rocked Esparto and shattered windows up to a mile away from the blast site.
"It was a boom that was just -- I had never heard anything like that before, it was really weird," said Sherril Stephens, an Esparto resident whose windows were broken by the large blast.

However, after having the windows replaced by the show free of charge, Stephens added that the experience had been an enjoyable one and she was looking forward to see the episode when it eventually airs on television.

"It was fun, really fun," she told KNTV-TV.

Resident Paul Williams was also startled by the explosion, but was a little less enthusiastic about the blast, which he equated the sound of to a plane crash or house explosion.

"It felt like a house blew up, straight up," Williams told KNTV-TV. "'Course all the neighbors ran out into the street. We didn't know what was going on."
"We were just scrambling to find out what was going on because we got kids out on the playground," Williams added, before saying that he would have liked to have been notified that such a loud blast was about to occur near the town.

However Esparto Fire Department chief Barry Burns said that notifying town residents would have likely resulted in a crowd coming to watch the filming and created more problems in the process.
"Mythbusters is supposed to be a really popular show. Everybody would have been out there. We would have had to cancel it because it would have been too dangerous," Burns said, according to KNTV.

He added that firefighters had notified of the planned explosion and had been on hand to monitor it.

Mythbusters' production staff told KNTV-TV they did not know when the episode is expected to air on Discovery.  Yolo County is located about 85 miles north of the show's usual workshop in Alameda, CA. 

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