Our fire district happens to be smack dab in the middle of one of the worst counties in the USA for meth labs. We find them in vehicles moving around, corn fields, roadside ditches, abandoned houses and about anywhere else you can think of. If your familiar with these you know they pose an unsuspecting threat to the firefighter. Had one the other day in an out building. The fire was suspicious because there was no power or any obvious cause for the ignition. As officer in charge i always drill the owner if available about any dangers other than the obvious to my firefighters. He told me nothing dangerous here. Later we found several propane grill tanks inside which they used to store the anhydrous ammonia they steal and propane for a heat source to make this illegal drug. there are several dangerous and explosive materials used in this activity which seems to be getting worse in our neck of the woods. It can turn what may seem to be a one or two room structure fire into a death trap for firefighters. Anyone else see this and how do you deal with it?
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Thread: Meth labs do you have them?
12-17-2003, 01:13 AM #1
- Join Date
- Oct 2003
- lookin for da heat
Meth labs do you have them?
12-17-2003, 01:58 AM #2
Meth labs......yep we've got em.
In our fire district you can't drive more than 3 miles without one being around. It's cheap to make, very profitable, but VERY dangerous.
Because Anhydrous Ammonia is so plentyful here the labs are all over the place. However "cooks" are doing something new now. They store a 100# propane tank IN their house and run copper tubing into the flooring and out the foundation. In the middle it is mixed with 10-10-10 and 12-12-12 fertilizer. The end product is anhydrous ammonia. Just what you'd want to find in a structure fire.......100# of LP.Jeremy Culver
IACOJ Bureau of EMS
These views are my own and do not represent the views or opinions of anyambulance service that I am affiliated with.
Help our fellow firefighters.
"Firefighters Helping Firefighters"
12-17-2003, 01:58 AM #3
- Join Date
- Dec 2003
Yes, we have has a number of them too. Look for the kitty litter that they use for a filter. You will find a lot of cans of actone too. When there is large quantities of both you know you are on to one.
At least in our area. Alot of the people in the meth manufacture business are Mexican Nationals. We look to see if they are around. They are usually in the U.S. illegally. They usually head for the hills or come back for something. If they come back be on your guard. Have every on the look out. I have seen them scouting us out. They most like will be armed. Bring in Law Enforcement.
12-17-2003, 02:20 AM #4
This should go without saying, but... Begin exterior operations as soon as you find the first sign that you are dealing with a meth lab! Also, once you figure out that you have a lab on your hands, treat everything as though it were hazardous. Labs are a problem EVERYWHERE, but I've discovered that many departments (including those in my area) don't have as much training as they should regarding them. One problem is that some instructors teaching meth lab awareness classes and the like are afraid to reveal too much for fear that they'll have firefighters cooking the stuff.
12-17-2003, 11:23 AM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2000
- WC IL MABAS Div. 44
They are here also. The number of labs has risen in the last few years. One of the big changes here is that the labs have became mobile. Most labs are now found in trunks of cars. They carry NH3 in everything from LP bottles, coolers, and fire extinguishers. Our local fertilizer dealers are getting hit hard by the meth heads. Many have had to install 24 hour monitoring systems on their nurse tank lots. We also have a few suspected houses in our district and I get an occasional tip from a DEA friend about possable firefighting dangers at certain locations.Proudly serving as Vice-President of the Illinois Delegation of the IACOJ
12-17-2003, 04:40 PM #6
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
- Emmetsburg, IA
A meth lab fire or accident is a hazardous materials incident, and only properly trained and equipped haz-met techs should be in the area. Unfortunately, most of these meth labs are in rural America where we have a shortage of firefighters trained to the haz-mat tech level.
What this means is, if you have a fire in a meth lab, you probably shouldn't be in there. As stated above, this is a defensive fire attack. My personal opinion on the matter is that I wouldn't go into a meth lab fire even to attempt a rescue of a civilian inside. I don't want the fire chief to have to explain to my wife and kids that I died trying to save a crank-head who was going to spend the rest of their lives in and out of prison. You may consider that a strong opinion, but I don't care much for people who put us at risk for the sake of their drug habits.
Now, if we've had a team enter the structure and THEN discovered a meth lab, but were unable to evacuate - then and only then would I go in. Just to save our own.
12-17-2003, 05:25 PM #7
More and more of them are being found around here. Of course, it's the ones we DON'T know about that scare me. For every one they find, who knows how many they don't?? Dangerous stuff.
12-17-2003, 06:52 PM #8
In addition to the above, always keep in mind that a fire scene involving a meth lab is also CRIME SCENE. Tread lightly.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
12-17-2003, 07:26 PM #9
The county my department is in had the honor of being named the NYS Trooper "Meth Capital of New York", we have many highways connecting many colleges which makes this an attractive spot, as for fires, I've had a few car fires but no structures yet *knocks on wood*NYS FF1/AEMT-CC
IAEP Local 152
"You stopped being in charge when I showed up"
12-17-2003, 07:30 PM #10
I would venture to say that every jurisdiction has meth labs some where within there boundries. Meth has become the most profitable drug to sell these days. Problem is that as these heads get hooked on the drug they get sloppy in the way they cook the crap, there is where the danger lies for us as first responders. Putting ammonia into LP tanks is extremly dangerous because the valving used on Lp tanks is not compatable with Ammonia, after awhile the threads on the valves rot away and then you have a haz mat situation. Like firemedicgm says meth labs are just that, a haz mat situation and also a crime scene and have to be treated for what they are. Best advice we have gotten from the police is unless there is life safety for a rescue to be done or to save innocent peoples property SAFELY, screw it, back off a good way and let 'er go up in flames. That way you don't put your people in harms way and the taxpayer is not responsible for disposal cleanup etc. Meth is probably one of the worst recreational drugs to hit the streets of North America ever because the first time user has at the very least a 40% chance of becoming hooked on this poison the FIRST time they try it. Stats on withdrawl and rehabilitation are not yet understood because it is a relativly new drug on the market. Talking to the local constabulary they say that more and more crimes and particularly car chases are being perpretrated by meth freeks because it totaly diminishes your fear to do anything. Tazers are the weapon of choice, thats if you want to take these scumbags alive Treat every suspicious fire in the rural area as a potential lab scene, stay safe.
12-17-2003, 08:10 PM #11
On top of all the other hazards, you also have to worry about booby traps and/or attempts to conceal the piece meal equipment.
We were called on a stand-by while the local narcotics task force and the DEA busted a lab in our area. After they secured the scene the DEA agent in charge took us for a tour. He showed us where they had dug a hole to bury the 100 lb propane cylinder full of the anhydrous. If they had been successful, the only thing that would have been visible would have been the valve.
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