A series of near‐surface chemical explosions conducted at the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) main hole were recorded by high‐frequency downhole receiver arrays in April 2005. These seismic recordings at depths ranging from the surface to 2.3 km constrain the shallow velocity and attenuation structure as well as the first‐order characteristics of the source. Forward modeling of the explosions indicates that a source consisting of combined explosion, delayed implosion, and second‐order moment‐tensor components (corresponding to a distribution of vertical shear dislocations in the rock directly above the explosion) is sufficient to characterize the generated seismic wave fields to first order. Grid searches over source parameters controlling the nonexplosive components allow for the quantification of distributed vertical shear above the source and the estimation of the moment and time delay of the implosive component relative to the explosion. An estimated implosive to explosive moment ratio of 0.34 to 0.43 indicates a net static moment and positive macroscopic volume change.