LOS ANGELES — About 100 people were forced from their Los Angeles-area homes Thursday night after sheriff’s deputies discovered a cache of World War II-era explosives in the backyard of an abandoned home that had been overtaken by transients.

The sheriff’s department had first received a call Thursday night about a suspicious car that was parked in front of the home in Lawndale. While they were investigating that call, the deputies surveyed the vacant home and discovered 15 to 30 grenades, shells and other ordnance in the backyard, officials said. At least some of the explosives appeared to be active, investigators said.

The home had been owned by a World War II veteran who passed away a few months ago, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Friday. After he died, transients moved into the vacant house.

After the deputies discovered the explosives, they evacuated the homes on several surrounding blocks for more than 14 hours as the bomb squad worked to analyze the items. Most of the devices were duds, but concerns about a case of ammunition and other items kept them from lifting the evacuation.

“It’s a tremendous danger,” McDonnell said. “You have one shell, and it can cause tremendous damage.”

Investigators were still pouring over the rusty artillery shells, mortar rounds, bullets and grenades and working to figure out exactly where they came from, how long they have been at the home and who was responsible for them, McDonnell said.

Associated Press writer Robert Jablon contributed to this report.

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