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Hash oil lab discovered after explosion at El Cajon warehouse

55 Gallon Drums of Hexane.jpg
Posted at 8:31 AM, May 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-17 20:25:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Two hash oil extraction labs were discovered in two San Diego County cities, with one of them found inside an El Cajon warehouse after a fire.

Federal officials said an explosion and subsequent fire was reported at a warehouse at 920 El Cajon Blvd. in El Cajon, and the incident sent one man to the hospital with extensive burn injuries Thursday night.

According to federal officials, “DEA’s Narcotic Task Force responded to the scene and identified an active hash oil extraction laboratory. Marijuana, sophisticated laboratory equipment, and over a dozen 55-gallon drums containing hexane, a volatile solvent, were located inside the building where the fire occurred.”

RELATED: Fire at El Cajon warehouse considered suspicious

Hexane is a highly flammable liquid and its vapors can be explosive, the DEA says. A spark of static electricity is enough to ignite a room.

Extraction involves removing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, from the plant using a solvent. The final product can be up to 90 percent pure.

The amount of hexane found at the El Cajon warehouse could have caused significant damage to the community if the fire department hadn't knocked down the flames quickly, according to the DEA.

No arrests were announced in connection with the El Cajon fire and lab discovery.

Federal officials also said a hash oil lab in Warner Springs was “dismantled” by federal agents on Thursday. Agents discovered the lab inside three trailers on a property at 30570 Chihuahua Valley Road.

According to federal officials, the Warner Springs lab “was approximately 15 times larger than the BHO extraction lab that caused the recent explosion in Mira Mesa.”

RELATED: 3 burned in fire at home that allegedly housed marijuana growing operation

Four people were arrested in the Warner Springs case: 33-year-old Bradley Chase Gilmore; 30-year-old Maritza Gutierrez; 39-year-old Richard Villanueva; 30-year-old Elsie Fernandez.

“These labs are extremely dangerous due to the potential for fire and explosions because flammable solvents are used to extract THC from marijuana plant material,” DEA spokesperson Kameron D. Korte said.

In 2018, 31 hash labs were dismantled in San Diego County, officials said. There have been 19 labs dismantled in 2019.

The DEA asked anyone with information about illegal hash oil extraction laboratories to call them at 858-616-4100.