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Military to Dispose of War’s Final Cache of Napalm

December 5, 1994

FALLBROOK, Calif. (AP) _ Twenty years after the Vietnam War, the military is planning to dispose of its last stocks of napalm, the sticky, fiercely burning incendiary weapon.

More than 35,000 aluminum canisters containing 23 million pounds of napalm are soon to be removed from the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station, where they’ve sat outside in wooden crates for two decades.

Officials of the Southern California center plan a public hearing next month to brief the public on the latest disposal plan.

Past attempts to remove the napalm failed for various reasons, including a lack of money.

″This time we think we have a better handle on it,″ said Richard Williamson, spokesman for the Naval Ordnance Center, Pacific Division, in Seal Beach.

The Navy plans to hire a contractor to extract the napalm from the canisters for use as fuel in high-temperature kilns at cement-making plants around the country, Williamson said.

The process, which is scheduled to begin within two weeks, could take up to five years and cost more than $24 million, he said.

Napalm is a sticky, flammable mixture of benzene, gasoline and polystyrene plastic. It was dropped in bombs from aircraft and used in flame throwers.

In 1972 and 1974, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions condemning the use of napalm and other incendiary devices. The United States and the Soviet Union abstained.

Today, however, the United States has eliminated napalm from its arsenal.

Residents of the San Diego County farming community say they have learned to live with the napalm.

″It doesn’t scare me anymore,″ said Jennifer Gaggero, who can see some of the canisters on the horizon from her back door. ″I used to be worried about lightning striking it, but you can only worry about something for so long.″

Navy and civilian officials say it takes the high temperatures of burning white phosphorus to ignite the napalm compound.

″It doesn’t present any immediate health hazards to anyone,″ said Rich Varenchik, a spokesman for the state Department of Toxic Substance Control.

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