WILDOMAR: House fire suspected to be caused by illegal marijuana “honey oil” production

WILDOMAR – A fire that left one person injured, destroyed a home and damaged another in Wildomar Wednesday was likely triggered by a butane gas explosion ignited during the illegal production of the marijuana derivative known as “honey oil,” authorities said.

“There were all sorts of indicators after we arrived that pointed to a butane honey oil lab at the location,” Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Mike Vasquez told City News Service.

The blaze in the 33600 block of Harvest Way, near Cornstalk Road, was reported at 4 a.m.

According to county fire officials, a 1,200-square-foot modular home was consumed by the flames and a neighboring single-story residence was moderately damaged.

A man residing in the first property suffered minor to moderate burns and was undergoing treatment at a hospital, according to Vasquez.

Reports from the scene indicated butane gas canisters were scattered throughout the street and yard fronting the property where the blaze erupted.

About 30 personnel spent nearly an hour battling the flames before they were fully contained, according to a fire department spokeswoman.

She said American Red Cross workers were summoned to assist the three occupants displaced after the modular home was destroyed. Three adults and a child from the second property were also provided assistance with temporary lodgings.

Vasquez said deputies detained the occupants of the home where the fire originated, but no arrests were made.

The conflagration came one day after the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office released a series of public service announcements warning of the perils of butane honey oil production.

The videos feature Alex Gonzales and his girlfriend Selina Cervantes, both of whom were severely burned in a BHO blaze at a Palm Springs motel in February 2015. Cervantes suffered second- and third-degree burns to 97 percent of her body and was permanently disfigured.

Gonzales, who was convicted of felony charges, admitted sitting in the motel bathroom, repeatedly emptying butane cans to extract liquid from marijuana plants. He said he had no explanation for the detonation that ignited the fire but guessed that it could have been something as simple as sliding his shoe across the floor and creating a heat source.

“People need to understand that the butane honey oil extraction process takes lives – it hurts people forever,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. “We want to put an end to the manufacture of butane honey oil.”

Drug lab operators use butane to extract tincture from cannabis plants. The product, often referred to as “wax” or hash, can be mixed with anything and bottled.

BHO labs have sprung up in both remote and heavily populated areas of the county. In the past few years, butane honey oil fires have erupted in Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Norco and Riverside.

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