The owner of the Salmon Creek Road property that was the site of a hash lab fire Tuesday has been identified but not arrested, according to an official with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. Bryan Quenell, commander of the Drug Task Force, said today that the connection between the owner and the drug operation, which in addition to a hash lab included a marijuana grow with over 2,800 plants, is not yet clear.
“We know who the owner of the property is. But we don’t know if the owner is responsible for the hash lab and the grow itself,” Quenell said.
The property is located in the 4000 block of Salmon Creek Road.
Because the fire burnt a shed-type structure — the hash lab — to the ground, the precise cause of the blaze will remain a mystery.
“The scene was too destroyed for investigators to determine the cause,” explained Cal Fire Public Information Officer Laura Coleman.
Coleman said that when firefighters arrived at the scene, they were informed by someone who was already there that the structure on fire contained significant amounts of butane, which is highly flammable. Consequently, she said there was a good deal of concern, at least initially, about the possibility of an explosion.
“When the explosion potential had mitigated, firefighters were able to go in and mop it up,” Coleman said.
About 20 firefighters took part in the effort, including crews from the Miranda and Salmon Creek volunteer fire departments. Coleman said no one was injured.
Salmon Creek Road was closed for several hours Tuesday because of the blaze.
Sheriff’s Office investigators were allowed onto the site at roughly 5:30 p.m. According to a Sheriff’s Office press release, besides the “burnt remains of a Butane Honey Oil (BHO) lab,” investigators found “marijuana bud/shake, butane canisters, nitrogen tanks, propane tanks, commercial grade ovens, and stainless steel hash extractor tubes.”
Quenell said “the extraction tubes were commercial in size.”
“I would estimate you could get five to six pounds of ground-up marijuana in the extraction tubes we removed [from the site].”
“Because of the fire and damage I can’t prove that they contained butane but that would be my best guess. I don’t know of any other chemical used [to make hash].”
As for the role nitrogen may have played in the operation, Quenell shrugged his shoulders. “I’m unfamiliar with any BHO system that uses nitrogen,” he said.
Quenell said investigators “processed evidence” for roughly three hours, wrapping up just before dark.
As for the grow side of the operation, Quenell said it included plants located in four greenhouses as well as outdoors. He said there was also a “small grow room for clones.” The plants ranged in size from 6 inches to 3 feet in height.
There doesn’t appear to be any question about the operation’s legality — or rather the lack thereof.
“This was a commercial marijuana operation,” Quenell said. “There is no indication they were cultivating for medical purposes. There was no Prop 215 card posted.”
“The investigation is ongoing into those responsible. There are a number of leads we’re working on. Hopefully, we’ll end up with arrest warrants.”
“This was definitely not a backyard, do-it-yourself operation. They used commercial-grade equipment,” Quenell added.
Characterizing the site as benign from an environmental perspective would ignore the fact that it caught fire — or that several trees had recently been cut down on the property and milled. Nonetheless, Quenell said he’s seen quite a bit worse. “There were no stream diversions or large piles of trash or chemicals like we’ve seen in the past,” he observed.