DEA investigates drug lab explosion at Mira Mesa home

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SAN DIEGO -- Federal agents say a series of explosions in a marijuana extraction lab were the likely cause of a weekend fire that seriously burned three young men in Mira Mesa.

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration told FOX 5 that dozens of butane cartridges used in the extraction of THC from marijuana somehow caught fire and exploded. Neighbors in Mira Mesa said it sounded like a bomb went off. The force of the blasts blew the door off of the garage.

Fire broke out in the garage of the house on Sunny Meadow Street near Canyon Breeze Road around 6:15 p.m. Sunday. Fire officials initially thought the house was being used to grow marijuana

The DEA is now in charge of the fire investigation. Agents said it was a drug processing operation, not a grow house.

“It was not a marijuana grow,” said DEA Special Agent Karen Flowers. “This was straight up close circuit extraction laboratory using butane. So it was a butane explosion.”

The house was completely gutted. A Toyota 4Runner parked in the driveway was also destroyed. The flames even spread to the home next door, but fire crews were able to prevent serious damage.

Three men, all in their 20s escaped but suffered third-degree burns covering 95 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent of their bodies, respectively, a SDFD battalion chief said.

The men, all hospitalized in the burn unit at UCSD Medical Center, are now suspects an illegal drug manufacturing case, Flowers said.

“It’s extremely dangerous, and that’s what is so important. This is not about marijuana being legal or illegal. This is flat out public safety. And people are doing this in their homes. It blew the garage door off,”  Flowers said. “It can be done anywhere. It’s frightening.”

Flowers says the men will likely face both federal and state charges related to possession and manufacturing a controlled substance, as well as endangering the public.

The identities of the men have not yet been released.

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