A marijuana drug lab that exploded outside a Puyallup house Tuesday was the largest law enforcement officials have encountered in Pierce County, police said Wednesday.
The blast in the 1500 block of Shaw Road East scattered hundreds of butane lighter fluid canisters around the property and launched several more than 100 feet onto the road.
Officers who responded to the explosion just before 9 p.m. took cover behind their vehicles as multiple explosions rocked the upscale neighborhood, which is three blocks from Shaw Elementary School.
Several people believed involved with extracting hash oil at the lab fled after the explosions. Police detained four men and booked one of them, a 20-year-old man, into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment, and reckless burning.
“Based on our investigation, we believe he is responsible for what was taking place here,” police Capt. Scott Engle said.
David Sundahl Jr. took video of the explosions from his home, which is on the hill above the house that burned. He said people in their 20s seem to frequent the residence.
“I was with my wife in our bedroom, and somebody was blasting some really crappy techno music,” he said. “It sounded like someone was having a party, and this was moments before everything started breaking out.
“When we heard what sounded like a myriad of fireworks going off, it sounded like a party gone out of control. But it was apparent there was some pretty big fireballs and explosions.”
It took police a while to figure out what was happening at the home, in part because the department has not dealt with a hash-oil extraction lab before.
A large canopy had been set up in front of the house and the group allegedly was extracting hash oil inside.
The butane blast disintegrated the canopy, damaged the house and a car in the driveway and exploded a few hundred canisters stored in trash bags under a neighboring canopy. Butane is used to burn off vegetation on marijuana plants to extract THC, which creates a high for users, Sgt. Dan Pashon said.
On Wednesday, police blocked off the block of Shaw Road for about four hours while they made a diagram of the scene and mapped the trajectory of butane bottles.
A hazardous materials team from Central Pierce Fire & Rescue came to deal with the butane canisters. Agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency also helped with the investigation.
Police said 10 people are associated with the house and interviews were ongoing. It’s unclear how long the lab was operating.
The spot where the canopy had been set up was partially concealed by large bushes and trees. Signs warning of dogs and that the home is private property were posted on a rusted mailbox out front.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.
Video courtesy of David Sundahl Jr.