You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Report: Processing marijuana with butane sparked fire that destroyed home

By Tom Perkins


A fire caused by a man heating hash with butane burnt a hole through the front of his mobile home in Ypsilanti Township.

Tom Perkins | For

Authorities say a flash fire that destroyed a mobile home on July 10 in Ypsilanti Township was ignited by a buildup of butane used to process marijuana.

The fire was the second in three days believed to be related to the use of butane for marijuana processing.

The fire broke out around 2 a.m. July 10 in the 9000 block of Joan Circle in the Lakeview mobile home park. Flames were shooting from the trailer when firefighters arrived. The residents had fled.

Ypsilanti Township Fire Chief Eric Copeland said a man at the home was cooking marijuana into hash oil with a torch on a skillet in an enclosed area. Copeland said the gas is heavier than air and builds up just above the floor, so it can easily ignite.

According to a fire inspection report by Fire Marshal Vic Chevrette, the man who ignited the fire initially declined to tell authorities what happened because of the presence of Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

Once officials told him that an explanation was for the safety of firefighters still on the scene, the man asked to speak to firefighters in private, the report stated.

“While attempting to make hash oil from marijuana plant products, he was using butane as part of the process,” Chevrette wrote. “He was using a steel water bottle to heat up the product over the stove and a flash fire occurred.”


Tom Perkins | For

The man attempted to put out the fire with a blanket and suffered second degree burns to his arms, according to the report. The entire front of the manufactured home was destroyed.

“A marijuana grow operation was discovered at the rear of the manufactured home. (Sheriff’s deputies) confiscated the plants,” Chevrette wrote.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Geoffry Fox said the man was not charged with any crimes.

Mike Radzik, director of the office of community standards, said the Sheriff's Department was investigating the home because of complaints from neighbors about the grow operation.

The July 10 fire bears similarities to an explosion on July 7 that destroyed a home in the 1300 block of Gattegno Street,

The Gattegno home was scheduled to be raided the following day as part of a larger series of raids throughout metro Detroit.

At that home, officials discovered hundreds of boxes containing thousands of 15-ounce canisters of butane and dozens of bags of marijuana.

Copeland said processing marijuana with butane appears to be an increasingly common practice in the area, though it is especially dangerous when done in enclosed spaces. Butane-extracted hash oil is emerging in stoner culture as a way to achieve an intense high, described as “cosmically baked,” according to a June 2013 Rolling Stone article. Usually, marijuana is packed into a tube, and a solvent, such as butane, is forced through it.

The liquid is collected, and the solvent is evaporated — leaving a highly concentrated THC-laced resin that can vary in its final consistency from hard crystals to earwax-like goop.

Ypsilanti Township Attorney Doug Winters said he has spoken with Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority officials and is planning to ask DTE Energy officials about helping locate homes that are using high levels of utilities, which could indicate the presence of marijuana operations. Winters said he received a positive response from the YCUA but a DTE official at the July 22 meeting said he would have to get back in touch with the township, though it wouldn’t be difficult to do.

Winters said similar tracking is being done in Detroit.

“They can identify uses that are so abnormally high that there’s something going on beyond just the running the air conditioner,” Winters said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Contact the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

At least it was not a meth lab.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

Reading this I realized there are plenty of beat-up clunker mobile homes you could buy for less than a set of tires. These units are several hundred square feet each. Block off the windows and turn on the lights and you got room for hundreds of plants worth at least hundreds of dollars a plant. Sadly, it would seem others thought of it first, like the Bessemer Process this nimrod inadvertently ignited with the butane.

Speedy Squirrel

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

Pay attention to this story kids. Smoking dope leads to living in a trailer in Ypsilanti Township. If you are using a de-motivating substance that costs $400/oz you are going nowhere.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 3:19 a.m.

But if you are selling a substance that costs $400/oz you can live anywhere.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

Its so wrong how the police can give their side of the story without going to court and allowing the defended to dispute the facts. So wrong, yet its allowed to go on here in the USA.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

I really don't care if marijuana is legalized. There are plenty of addictive substances people can take, and this will just be one more. The people with home explosions may well have had "caregiver" licenses to grow and deal with patients. The articles didn't say. I suspect the chemical processing is not addressed in the current law. I see no reason marijuana has to be grown in residential neighborhoods, nor processed there. And growers/dealers are allowed to keep their high risk business secret from neighbors, so you never know when the house next door will blow up, and you don't get a chance to move away before it does. It's a business, so let it exist in commercial or industrial areas. Get it out of residential neighborhoods!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

Hmm. Similar occurrences happened during alcohol prohibition with basement whiskey stills

Speedy Squirrel

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

So that means its OK then?

Rob Sanders

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

A quick google of hash oil will tell you how to make it... nearly every single list of instuctions begin with "...only in a very well ventilated area, if not outside". No matter how you look at it, if you cant follow a set of instructions let alone just step 1 of them.... you are doomed no matter what. Curiosity led me to look up the process. in less than 3 minutes i also learned that butane "pools" above the floor, and you cook off the butane with a heating pad or warm water.... never a open flame. If a some idiot smokes a cigarette while fueling his vehicle and blows himself up, who do you blame? the smoker, the car or the cigarette? Lets point the finger where it should be pointed... at the morons making it in poorly ventilated areas, not the hash oil or butane.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

Butane boils at room temperature. There's no need to heat it.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:05 p.m.

maybe they didn't learn to read too well?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

The butane started the fire, not the plants, so naturally the government wants to go after the plants. It's time to turn marijuana processing over to the professionals so that it can be done safely. This is the marijuana version of a back alley abortion.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:49 p.m.

Not only that, the hash they make is junk compare to what I recall decades ago.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Just legalize marihuana and its derivatives. Then this process can be run with properly engineered equipment in an industrial facility that is regularly inspected by OSHA and the fire marshal. Much safer for everyone, including neighbors and fire fighters.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

Could someone direct me to an actual American bootlegger? Regardless, it's another laughable absurdity to assert that if there is any moonshining going on that unless we achieve perfection and make such behavior disappear without a trace that we may as well continue to embrace proven, epic failures of public policy. Re-legalization may see a few vestigial actors but their numbers would be marginalized to being a minor annoyance. In Georgia USA, there are still a few vestigial bootleggers of drinking alcohol. In that State modern day bootlegging leads to the scourge of stripper poles and the tragedy of illegal buffets: quoted from article linked above: "Though the squads focus on drugs and gangs, they address a few bootlegging cases each year. "They pop up every now and then. People want to make a little extra money," Ware said. "They'll buy beers and then sell it for two or three times more." In early November, three people were arrested and accused of selling alcohol illegally out of a home on Brown Street. The suspects allegedly were selling beer, wine, mixed drinks and shots of moonshine. There was also a buffet and a stripper pole set up at the house, Ware said." /snip/


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

Oh man, the EPA and OSHA is what drove so many jobs overseas, let them regulate marijuana and kiss many of those jobs good bye as well.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

What makes you so sure that folks will stop processing the stuff at home if it is legalized? I don't see the connection. Booze is legal, and yet, moonshiners still make their own.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

That's crazy talk. Next you'll suggest people pay taxes on it as well.

Robert Granville

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Anybody with half a lick of sense knows that you don't blast BHO inside. This is nearly Darwin award material. Butane pools.... take it outside and you'll never have a problem.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Why wouldn't people try to find a remote area outside to do this instead of inside a house?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

Why bother DTE about it when the NSA already knows?

Usual Suspect

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

It's much safer to just go out and work for an honest living. Taking the easy way or the drug way gets you nowhere.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

Tell that to the Madoff family


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

"I really don't think the person in this story was producing anything to be used for medicinal purposes." Actually, when done safely, hash can be safer and cleaner way to consume the medicine. There is way less to actually no smoke inhaled because it is vaporized and has no plant matter.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

I really don't think the person in this story was producing anything to be used for medicinal purposes.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

Tell that to my daughter(4 back surgeries). the only thing that helps hermanage her CHRONIC pain is a hot shower and a joint!

Are you serious?

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Maybe we should try to convince these would be Walter Whites and Jesse Pinkmans to drive out to some isolated woods somewhere to do their cook. The rest of us would be safer!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

Exactly! I keep wondering that!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

" planning to ask DTE Energy officials about helping locate homes that are using high levels of utilities" I run an absolute BUTTLOAD of computers in my house, servers, random nix boxes, etc. So I have high electrical usage. I also grow tomatoes and peppers in tents in my basement (although I didn't this last season). Granted, my computers used more electricity than the grow lights (high efficiency lights), but when combined with the tent lights I'm sure it shows fairly high usage in comparison to my neighbors. Does this mean I am to expect LAWNET to come trespass on my property and peer into my windows looking for "evidence" to raid my house?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:53 p.m.

If they can't open your door, the blast a wall down to get in--been done before.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

Yes. I can teach you how to reinforce your door so that they'll need hydraulic equipment to get the door open.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

Good grief....why was my comment deleted ? all I asked was how his tomato's tasted.I even made a point that I was not taking a shot at him

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

WHAT! you don't buy your fruits & veggies from Mexico like ALL good American should! Yes "they" will show up @ your door but "they" don't knock on the door "they" kick it in with guns in hand just waiting for excuse to blow your head off. Even if "they" have the wrong address. Welcome to the new improved police state...don't you feel safer?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

You can't make this stuff up. The picture proves it!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

I'll never understand the thought process of someone trying to evaporate a HIGHLY FLAMMABLE GAS from a compound by using AN OPEN FLAME TO HEAT IT..... It's called electric hot plate + water bath...


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

I'd agree with you on that except for that fact that these people ALSO put you and I at risk with their behavior. If they were just taking themselves they put everyone around them at risk too.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

The process is called "natural selection".

Jack Gladney

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

So hash is to marijuana what crack is to cocaine. Interesting. I wonder if "cosmically baked" is a term used in medical dictionaries, ya know with marijuana being medicine and all that.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:30 p.m.

You people haven't a clue what you're talking about. Pharmacologically crack is cocaine, which is why it's in Federal Schedule II. The only point to making crack is because with the common base of powder cocaine it's not smokable because the heat destroys the cocaine. Crack may be chemically altered, but that's easily done with baking soda and water. Substance: Cocaine DEA number: 9041 CSA schedule: II Narcotic?: Y Other names: Methyl benzoylecgonine, Crack It is laughably absurd to try to compare hash to crack.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Hmm, never thought of it like that-hash is pot's crack but yeah. They only reason crack is so bad is cause that cocaine stuff is no good no matter how you use it..unless its during surgery to keep a heart beating. Why cocaine is thought of being less bad then pot is by the feds.

Jack Gladney

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Got it, Bob. Use water to concentrate orange juice and coffee.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

@Jack, Water is the most common solvent. It does wonders on coffee beans.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Not at all...that is a completely incorrect comparison. Hash is to Cocaine is to Coca leaves. No make cocaine the EXACT same way as BHO...just different solvents.

Jack Gladney

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Got it, Bob. I'm gonna start using chemical solvents ike butane, hexane and to make my orange juice. I've used ethanol to do it in the past, but the thirst quenching drink it yields is a little harsh, and I don't have the gear to do vacuum distillation. Bummer.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Hash oil is extracted from marijuana, it is not chemically altered like crack. A better analogy would be orange juice and oranges.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

They were going to add it, but forgot and went to taco bell instead.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1 p.m.

"planning to ask DTE Energy officials about helping locate homes that are using high levels of utilities" Sounds like something that should require a warrant.


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 4:15 a.m.

@Dave66 Actually, you should read the follow up story. In fact, you should ALWAYS wait for the follow up story, since we live in the tabloid age where news stories are almost always hyped to make some ideological point. Turns out that it was not, as originally reported, that the wife searched for pressure cookers and husband searched for backpacks. It was the husband who searched both for backpacks and for "pressure cooker BOMBS". From his computer at work. And it was not big brother tracking his google searches, but rather the IT guy at work notified the feds. And if you read the original story, the cops who came were extremely polite, seemed to figure out within minutes that there was nothing nefarious going on, and that was the end of it. What is wrong with that?


Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

Police have been raiding tropical plant growers for years. Luckily, the weed growers have perfected the LED lights that indoor growers of tropical plants use now. The latest technology is the way to go! Less of a blip on the ol' radar of DTE, and lower electric bills. Win!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

Before we moved, we had regular 3-4 month summer bill of $300-$400, our ducting was old, and leaked like a sieve. I'd have been pretty pissed off if my home got raided due to my high electric bill, not to mention we had a leak in our plumbing, so we got $200+ water bills on occasion as well. I mean come on! And I'm sorry, I'm familiar with the medical MJ laws and "rules' and am a supporter of decriminalization, but using butane to extract the oil is not only dangerous, but unhealthy, which, is completely the opposite of what the medical cannabis cause is supposed to represent. It's been a topic of discussion among members of the cannabis friendly community,that those who use the hash or wax, are typically , not truly "interested" in the medicinal attributes of cannabis, but more the "high".. the process itself raises an eyebrow when unless using a specific vaporizer, the wax or oil] can only be "smoked"/inhaled by applying a glob of it [wax or hash oil] to the end of a pin and smoking/inhaling it like a meth/crack user. .. ick.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

@TDW: Homeland Conspiracy is right. Do a Google search of recent news, you'll find a story where a family was visited by the police, interviewed, and their house searched, because they had looked up pressure cookers and backpacks on-line. It really happened, just recently.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

"If DTE consents to providing the information to law enforcement, there's nothing the customer can do about it." Pretty sure we have privacy laws that prevent them from just disseminating that information as they please. Thing is those laws have to be "invoked" through a contract...which you DO enter into when you purchase just depends on if that contract specifies that they won't sell your personal information. I have a feeling it DOES say that they won't sell it though...being that it's a large utility company like that.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Brad, DTE is using its own records, which belong to DTE - not the customer. If DTE consents to providing the information to law enforcement, there's nothing the customer can do about it. It's akin to looking at a bank's records to spot suspicious deposits, or a credit card company selling purchase data about specific customers. The customer may be the subject of the information, but that doesn't mean the information belongs to the customer.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

Homeland......Your comment lacks any facts and is just plain silly.Looking at energy usage has been going on WAY before the Patriot Act.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Under the so called Patriot Act "they" can do what ever "they" want to & "you" can't do a thing about it. You can't even do a search for pressure cookers or backpacks without the feds showing up @ your door. Welcome to the new improved police state...don't you feel safer?

Jack Gladney

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Warrants for what? All we have to do is label you as a dangerous person and we now have reasonable cause. You must be referering to that silly old document drawn up by old white dudes in Philadelphia. Get with it man. We new school. We're the new generation of enlightened Americans. You can now trust the government to do what's right.

Colorado Sun

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:21 a.m.

Hash oil has been around since at least the 1970s. Hopefully this article will deter do-it-yourselfers from engaging in these types of dangerous activities.


Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

It's been around a lot longer than the '70s!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

And I just recall a press being used to make hash oil, today its all messed up.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

Billy, if it's not the same then how did we make our hash oil in the 70's?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

I agree with @Billy. My guess is the man was making what is referred to as "wax".


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

BHO has not...and people need to stop thinking it's "oil" because it's not. Also...the process for making actual hash oil is not the same at all. It's more involved and requires more "cooking."