Mira Mesa Hash Oil Operation Could Produce $72K-Worth of Concentrated THC: DEA - NBC 7 San Diego

Mira Mesa Hash Oil Operation Could Produce $72K-Worth of Concentrated THC: DEA

Officials found 100 butane cylinders outside of the home and equipment to make hash oil inside the home

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    Investigators said the marijuana extraction lab found inside a Mira Mesa home that went up in flames on Sunday, burning three people, could have produced up to $72,000-worth of concentrated THC. 

    That large of a hash oil operation had the potential to create an explosion that could have been much worse, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Karen Flowers said.

    "We are just really fortunate that the fire department got there so quickly… because that could have spread to multiple houses," she said. 

    The DEA is now taking over the investigation into what they describe as a large-scale, sophisticated hash oil operation inside a home on Sunny Meadow Street.

    The operation found inside was similar to ones they've seen before but significantly bigger, Flowers said. It had four butane extraction setups to create up to four pounds of concentrated THC, an oil that looks similar to honey and would have had a street value of $72,000.

    Three people were burned Sunday when the home exploded and two remained in critical condition on Monday. All patients were transported to UC San Diego's Burn Center.

    The two-story home burst into flames around 6 p.m. in the neighborhood located north of Mira Mesa Boulevard between Interstates 15 and 805. Nearby residents described hearing popping sounds coming from the burning building. 

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    Hours into their investigation, an SDFD fire chief said equipment to make hash oil was found inside the home and about 100 butane cylinders were found outside of the home. 

    Hash oil, also known as honey oil, is a concentrated resin extracted from cannabis. Many extraction methods involve butane or ethanol.

    The DEA said the fire originated in the home's garage, where the extraction lab was located. 

    NBC 7 obtained a copy of a search warrant for the home on Sunny Meadow Street that detailed some of the lab equipment that was found in the garage, like stainless steel extraction tubes, refrigerator recovery pumps, wax sheets, and multiple extraction solvents like butane and ethanol.

    Investigators also found a .45-caliber Springfield Model 1911 handgun, according to the warrant. As well as buyers and sellers lists, sales records and phone and address lists.

    Marijuana leaves were spotted on the streets outside of the home following the explosion on May 5, 2019.
    Photo credit: NBC 7

    According to the warrant. One of the victims suffered burns on 95 percent of his body.

    Neighbor John Nothdurft was one of the first people who ran outside and helped a victim.

    "I heard a big boom so I ran outside and I saw the first guy running through the streets," Nothdurft said. "His clothes were still on fire."

    Nothdurft said he ran inside to get the man some water. Other neighbors were seen spraying the man with a garden hose as he sat on the sidewalk.

    Another neighbor told NBC 7 she heard two or three people screaming as if they were being tortured.

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    Deputy Fire Chief Kelly Zombro said the fire spread quickly. 

    "It's significant enough that we have three victims that were burnt. They weren't able to get out of the structure quick enough, so you have to assume that the fire was moving pretty quickly from the very beginning," Zombro said.

    Firefighters were able to stop the spread of the fire before it reached other houses. Only one neighboring house suffered exterior damages from the heat, Zombro said.

    The structure itself sustained heavy damage throughout.

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    Neighbors explained they felt their houses shake but thought it might have been something normal as they live four miles north of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. 

    "I thought it was a bomb when it first went off, because we live so close to Miramar and we hear booms all the time, but this one was different," said neighbor Josie Herschel. 

    The home is located less than a mile from Challenger Middle School and Hickman Elementary School. 

    No arrests have been made.

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