August 7, 2004
Several people were evacuated from their Gilbert homes Friday after an off-duty fire inspector discovered what appeared to be radioactive materials and explosive chemicals that were being sold at an estate sale.
But of the several drums, bottles and jugs filled with chemicals that were found at the home at 1018 W. Newport Beach Drive, only one, believed to be fluorine, tested positive for small amounts of radioactivity late Friday night. The 91st Army National Guard tested the chemicals in a special explosion-proof vehicle as a precaution.
Hazardous materials investigators from Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler fire departments were especially worried about several unlabeled gallon-sized jugs that turned out to be antifreeze.
Neighbors said the house, owned by Hilarion and Susan Braun, has sat vacant for about a month since the two died only months apart.
Officials said Hilarion Braun, a chemist, had many different chemicals at his disposal, but many are not allowed inside homes.
"Some of the stuff seen there, the common person is not supposed to have at their house," said Gilbert police Sgt. Mike Angstead.
An off-duty Gilbert fire inspector was shopping at the estate sale at 1 p.m. when she noticed two cardboard boxes and bottles of old chemicals being sold on a table.
"(The sellers) thought that if somebody had an idea of what they were, that they could sell them," Gilbert fire investigator David Zehring said.
Six houses were evacuated near Warner Road and Islands Drive, and homeowners watched the action for several hours in the muggy 93-degree heat while waiting to get back in their homes.
"The scariest part is not knowing," said Kathy Kelly, 40, who lives three houses away.
"It’s kind of spooky, unsettling," she said.
Bob and Tracey Andersen, who live nearby, said the discovery was disturbing.
"Anything this close to my home makes me upset," Bob Andersen, 58, said. "And to think you could bring stuff home like that."
Sue Christopoulos, 52, was less worried. "It happens all the time in quiet neighborhoods," she said. "It could be innocent, but you never know what the guy five houses down is doing."