Thread: Meth Lab Fires and Explosions
05-26-1999, 10:19 PM #1stone35Firehouse.com Guest
Meth Lab Fires and Explosions
Over the past few years the emergence of methamphetamine(sp) labs have become a thriving underground operation. Unfortunately these labs are highly volatile and life-threatening to those who may be in or around the fumes and chemicals. What has your department done to educate you, the ambulance,firefighter, or police, on the dangers of meth labs and the precautions you should take when responding to a lab explosion or fire? Remember, meth labs are no longer a West Coast problem, these labs are now mobile, rural, and even in the cities.
06-11-1999, 12:10 AM #2oldtimerFirehouse.com Guest
My Dept. covers 195 sq.mi. of rural east Texas. This provides many out-of-the-way places for clandestine labs. We cover the hazards annually in our drills, but the County law enforcement guys still think their indestructable. I heard one on the radio recently at the scene of a lab ask his lead officer if he could back out of the building because he was starting to have trouble breathing. At this scene none of the three bordering Fire Depts. was put on standby or even officially notified. As usual, lack of training for all responders is the biggest problem.
06-11-1999, 11:19 PM #3721Firehouse.com Guest
Most of the press that meth labs get involve law enforcement, and the hazmat teams that come in to clean it up after the arrests are made. If they want the FD on standby, at a distance, give us a call, and we will use our bomb procedures. After all a meth lab is a bomb.
But what about the ones that arn't discovered yet? These labs can be in any FD district, and in any neighborhood. What about the accidental fire, lightning strike, etc.? I have not heard of any FF injuries/death due to a fire in an unknown meth lab, but the reality is that it must be comming.
I don't believe that law enforcement is going to share locations they suspect "might" be labs. Has any department tried to address this threat?
06-23-1999, 04:54 PM #4JRoseFirehouse.com Guest
A few years ago our department experienced a fire caused by a meth lab explosion. Our department is located in S. E. Oregon. A very sparsely populated part of the state. The fire occurred in a 120 unit motel. The fire leveled the motel. However, these labs can be anywhere. The older methods of meth production required some chemical glassware, but newer methods being used today may only require two large insulated drink containers. This makes them even more mobile. No matter what the size the danger is still there.
One of the biggest lessons we learned is that there has to be good communication between the fire departments and law enforcement agencies. The fire department was alerted at about 4:30 am and we found out that there was a meth lab at around 10:30 am. One of the "chemists" making the meth was severely burned in the explosion. The two rocket scientists were found at about 8:30 am hiding a RV nearby. By the time the fire department found out it was a meth lab, four of our firefighters had spent a considerable amount of time in the room. Because of this experience, our roll in any known meth lab is to secure the scene until the HazMat team arrives. We will not enter a structure where a meth lab exists. Our role will be to protect exposures. The key to this is identifying the lab.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office offers an excellent class in cladestine drug labs. We offered the class and had fire department and police department members attend. In this class we learned some clues to help in identifying a lab. We also conduct refresher courses every year and include the information in our regular training. Even though the motel room was in pretty bad shape (the toilet and sink were blown off the wall in the bathroom) when we entered, there were some signs that could have made us suspect that there was a clandestine drug lab. Learning the signs and keeping good communication with the local law enforcement will help. I make it sound simple, but its not.
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