Report: Processing marijuana with butane sparked fire that destroyed home
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
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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 AnnArbor.com
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 AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530.