Fallbrook Napalm - The Errors of That Website

Table of Contents

Disclosure Of My Biases
Political Motives of Kripke
Specific Errors Of Kripke's Website



The politically-motivated site, Dr. Daniel Kripke's Fallbrook Napalm - The Problem, makes the sensationalist claim that the Fallbrook napalm is a huge bomb waiting to go off and kill everyone from San Diego to the Los Angeles County border in a huge firestorm with the destructive force of the atom bomb that devastated Hiroshima.

As of 22 June 1999, Kripke's site fortunately doesn't seem to exist anymore, so that link probably doesn't work, now that the 1998 election is over.

For the actual situation and an evaluation of exactly how dangerous the Fallbrook napalm site is, see Napalm at the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station. This page is devoted specifically to pointing out the errors of the politically-motivated site.

It is telling that Kripke does not seem interested in correcting any factual errors on his site. For example, he cannot even locate the Fallbrook napalm on his map - he places "ground zero" for his holocaust in Anaheim on his map! I emailed him a simple note telling him about his error on 30 November 1997, when I listed his page on my webpage of all Fallbrook webpages, and his site has not been changed as of 31 January 1998. Nonetheless, he has been quick to put up speculation about cancer clusters as a result of email by someone in Fallbrook to him.

I did finally receive an email from him on 2 February 1998, stating that he had indeed replied on 1 December 1997, but that his "reply" function at his site wasn't working at that early time. For some unspecified reason, however, his map didn't get fixed.

When I posted this page, I sent Dr. Kripke another email telling him of this page on 1 February 1998 and offered to link to any rebuttal Dr. Kripke wished to make. In fact, I have exchanged quite a few emails with Dr. Kripke, and he sounds like a quite reasonable fellow in person. I received his reply on 8 February and posted it immediately.

The reply makes it clear that Dr. Kripke is using the napalm issue as a political springboard, which explains the tone of his webpage. I received his reply too late on Sunday, 8 February to comment on it now, but I will post my comments on his reply sometime later this week.

I still challenge Dr. Kripke to put a similar link from his napalm site to this page. After all, one's arguments should be able to stand up to rebuttals.

Disclosure Of My Biases

In the interests of full disclosure, which was not done by Dr. Kripke, here's my biases in the matter:

When I first saw Kripke's webpage, I thought it was amusing and might prod the more hasty removal of the napalm, so I thought it was a good thing. However, today I received an email from someone who was planning on moving to Fallbrook, but who was very worried as a result of the inflammatory remarks made by Kripke. On checking his page again today, I was shocked to see he had introduced more errors onto his page that, if not responded to, might indeed convince people who don't know the facts that there is some danger to living in Fallbrook. I couldn't let that go unanswered.

As an example of how seriously I take the threat of any risk to the health and safety of me and my family, for the two houses I have bought in California, I have carefully evaluated the following hazards and bought houses that are as safe as one can be in California from those hazards:

If I thought there was any significant danger at all from either the Fallbrook napalm or the San Onofre Nuclear Plant, I would have avoided Fallbrook and picked someplace else to retire to.

With that background, I will specifically point out the errors and biases of Kripke's website. My information about Kripke comes from an excellent article in the North County Times, 12/21/97, A1, A9.

Political Motives of Kripke

As clearly revealed by the title of the NCT article, Congressmen blasted over bomb disposal, the motivation of Dr. Kripke is to attack Reps. Ron Packard, R-Oceanside, and Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido. As stated in the article:

Kripke has run four unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate, the first in 1982 against Sen. Bill Craven, R-Oceanside, and the last in 1990 against then-Sen. Bill Lowery, R-San Diego.

"Yeah, I'm interested in politics, I don't deny that," Kripke said.

His website has specific attacks against Packard and Cunningham. Further, Kripke has spent $9,000 on not only his webpage, but 200 cable TV spots to attack those representatives.

Specific Errors Of Kripke's Website

Error #1: Fallbrook Napalm Is Causing Cancer Among Fallbrook Residents

Kripke states:

Cancer: The napalm firebombs have sprung over 3000 leaks and are giving off benzene fumes. Benzene fumes are a proven cause of cancer.

As many as six recent graduates of Fallbrook High School have been stricken with cancer, according a report from Fallbrook sent to this Web site.

A similar concern was voiced in a recent Channel 8 TV News story. Fallbrook residents are wondering if some environmental poison is causing their kids to suffer an excess of cancers.

Facts: Kripke is correct in saying that benzene fumes are being given off and that they are a proven cause of cancer. Unfortunately, he fails to point out that:

Furthermore, saying that "six recent graduates of Fallbrook High School have been stricken with cancer" is a virtually meaningless statement. First, one needs to know how many cancers are expected among the 2,500 graduates of FHS per year, and how many years were surveyed. For example, if you consider anyone graduating in the last 10 years as a recent graduate, there are 25,000 people, and I'd be surprised if one didn't expect more than six cancers among them. Second, if the Fallbrook napalm caused any health problems, the rate would have to be higher the closer people lived to the napalm. I'd be willing to bet that the residences of those six people are distributed just like the residences of all Fallbrook High School attendees.

By the way, most "cancer clusters" turn out to be due to simple chance. If you make a model that has a uniform probability of cancer everywhere, and then simply "draw straws" and assign the cancer clusters to people randomly across America, you will find that 1% of all cities have a "significantly" higher rate of cancer, due absolutely to chance. Nonetheless, in that model world, their news media would make a big story out of it, and numerous model residents would point out possible causes.

Error #2: Fallbrook Napalm Is Equivalent to the Hiroshima Atom Bomb

Kripke states:

Compare this to the 12-15 kiloton power of the Hiroshima atom bomb. If the leaky firebombs catch fire, the fire storm could be similar to that produced by the Hiroshima bomb.

This statement is so wild that I probably will embarrass the reader that I am bothering to refute it. Nonetheless, in the interest of completeness, here goes.

Kripke is exactly right that the total energy obtained by burning all the Fallbrook napalm is indeed roughly equivalent to the Hiroshima atom bomb. Unfortunately for him, that is the only valid comparison.

An atomic bomb is so devastating because it unleashes its power all at once. The Fallbrook napalm is spread over 68 acres and comes in 34,123 separated units sitting on dirt to reduce the flammability. There is no possibility at all of every single one of the 34,123 bombs somehow getting ignited at once. Napalm at the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station explains that it takes an extremely hot, concentrated ignition source like thermite to ignite napalm. No structure or forest fire, or even road flares, are hot enough to ignite them.

If any one of the bombs were somehow to catch fire, the fire would simply be put out. Fallbrook firefighters have concluded that the napalm poses little fire risk.

Finally, the gasoline contained in all the gas station tanks in a town of 300,000 also contains exactly the same amount of energy as the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Are you worried that the gasoline contained in any community of 300,000 in southern California could cause a fire storm similar to that produced by the Hiroshima bomb?

Error #3: "A Firestorm Caused By The Napalm Could Release A Cloud Of Poison Gas"

This error falls into the category of statements that are true, but are predicated on something happening that can't happen. In this case, the statement relies on the supposed firestorm debunked above. Since that firestorm can't happen, neither can the cloud of poison gas. And yes, the gas station fire would release almost exactly the same cloud of poison gases, since the poison gases from burning napalm come primarily from the burning gasoline.

Error #4: "Napalm has the same constituents as a styrofoam cup partly filled with gasoline, and you know that will burn."

First, the statement has faulty reasoning. For example, salt is made of sodium chloride, and hence has the same constituents as a beaker full of sodium and chloride separately. Sodium by itself burns furiously in air without any ignition source necessary, yet somehow salt manages to avoid being a terrifically harmful substance for flammability.

Second, No one has ever claimed that napalm doesn't burn. That would be pretty stupid, since everyone knows we dropped napalm in Vietnam to burn the forest. The fact is that napalm is extremely difficult to ignite (see above), whereas gasoline is extremely easy to ignite. Kripke's statement leads the reader to believe that napalm is extremely flammable like gasoline, and that is not so.

This is an old debater's trick: set up a strawman, and knock it down.

Error #5: "The napalm is leaking fumes known to cause cancer."

This statement was the basis of Kripke's claims for Error #1, and was rebutted there. It is notable that an endangered species, the kangaroo rat, has formed nests in the napalm crates, and is apparently thriving there without any reports of cancer...

Error #6: "Originally designed for the Vietnam war, the napalm now threatens our lives in San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties."

Since all the supporting statements for this assertion have been shown to be erroneous above, this statement has no support left. Furthermore, as I show in Napalm at the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station, there is no evidence for this at all. And since I live in Fallbrook, I would be the first to yell and scream about any possible hazard from it.

Error #7: "The Hiroshima atom bomb destroyed almost all buildings within a 12-mile-square radius and killed 140,000 people. Compare this with the leaky Fallbrook firebombs."

Kripke implies directly that the Fallbrook napalm could have the same effects as the Hiroshima atomic bomb, which shows a deeply flawed understanding of the different between an explosive nuclear bomb and burning fuel over a much longer time period. See the explanation under Error #2. For a fascinating description of what actually happens when an atomic bomb goes off, see The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, Samuel Gladstone, ed., Department Of Defense, 1962. None of the atomic bomb effects can be reproduced by igniting the napalm even if somehow all the bombs were ignited at once!

Error #8: "Allied bombers dropped 3.4 kilotons of incendiaries on Dresden, creating a firestorm which killed an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people. Compare this with the 11 kilotons of firebombs at Fallbrook."

Again an invalid comparison. (I'm growing tired of rebutting these fallacious arguments, so my invective will be lessened.) The bombers dropped incendiaries into a city filled with objects that burn, and there weren't too many firefighters fighting the fires until the bombing stopped. The Fallbrook napalm sits on dirt, which is pretty difficult to burn. And with no bombing around, Fallbrook firefighters will definitely be putting out any fire that occurs. And remember, there is this little problem of starting the fire in the first place....

Error #9: "For a decade, Tailhook Navy officers were too busy abusing women and committing drunken crimes to carry out complex duties like cleaning up leaky firebombs."

I'm growing very weary now of debunking this litany of errors, so I'll stop here. This is again a classic debater's technique, used when you have run out of factual items: "Bring up something that is embarrassing to the party you are attacking" otherwise known as "attack the person, not the issue". Gee, I believe the Navy did do a few things in the last 10 years, such as the Gulf War.

Nonetheless, Kripke finally has something of a point. It is pretty inexcusable of the Navy not to have cleaned up the napalm a long time ago. Despite the fact that there is no real danger here, it is definitely not a good thing to have jellied gasoline sitting around in the open for such a long time.

Why hasn't it been cleaned up before? The NCT reports that there have been three failed attempts to clean up the napalm. First, in 1982 a Barstow trucking company was supposed to recycle the bombs. Second, in 1985, an Arizona firm was supposed to build a recycling plant for the bombs. Third, in 1987, Oxnard-based Palm Enterprises bought the rights to the napalm, built a recycling plant at the Naval Weapons Station, but then found that the polystyrene solidified in the pipes, bring the process to a halt.

In 1994, six disposal options were discussed, which ended with the selection of the current plan to disassemble 100 bombs a day at the Naval Weapons Station, and ship the napalm, wooden casings and aluminum containers to recycling sites outside of California.


Kripke is using the Fallbrook napalm as a smokescreen to discredit his political opponents. He has no interest in, or understanding of, the facts.

Go to Fallbrook Information Overview

Copyright © 1998-1999 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 22 June 1999 (Page created 8 February 1998, with only the demise of Kripke's website noted after that.)