A 65-year-old ex-felon accused of blowing up a stockpile of gunpowder with a propane torch that he used to smoke methamphetamine pleaded not guilty to multiple charges including possession of drugs, weapons and burglary tools.
John Louis Blanchard was ordered to stand trial May 23 following a pretrial conference April 25.
Authorities arrested Blanchard Oct. 1 after sheriff’s deputies received a report of a fire in the neighborhood of Harvard and Columbia streets in Princeton, on the San Mateo County coast, just before 4 p.m. When they arrived, deputies found the fire was coming from a commercial storage yard on the 200 block of Yale Avenue where a camper was illegally being used as a residence. Cal Fire arrived at the scene and extinguished the blaze, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Blanchard was allegedly smoking crystal meth at the storage yard near his camper when he left a propane torch ignited on the ground. The torch flame lit a container of gunpowder Blanchard was apparently stockpiling, causing an explosion.
A loaded rifle was recovered from the scene as was more gunpowder and 300 feet of detonation cord found in an open safe, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The fire investigation discovered numerous hazardous, illegal materials and a variety of health and safety code violations.
Blanchard is free from custody on $30,000 bail.