Butane canisters explode at Puyallup hash oil lab

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PUYALLUP — Hundreds of butane canisters exploded like the sound of a commercial Fourth of July fireworks display as flames erupted at a house where marijuana was illegally being processed into hash oil, police and firefighters said.

Capt. Scott Engle, who happened to be nearby Tuesday night and was the first officer on the scene, said he took cover behind his car because of the spray-can size canisters flying through the air and shrapnel.

"In 15 years of law enforcement, I've never heard anything like this — one explosion after another," he said. "Very loud. Unbelievable."

About 10 people fled the house, and no one was injured, Engle said. Police questioned four people and jailed one on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance.

The hash-oil extraction operation was taking place under a canopy outside the L-shaped home, he said.

Central Pierce Fire and Rescue was still at the scene Wednesday dealing with damaged butane containers as hazardous materials. "The cause of this was illegal production of hash oil," Assistant Chief Ed Hrivnak said.

Responding firefighters limited damage to the exterior of the home and a car that caught fire, he said.

Engle compared the sound of the booms to the percussions of a professional fireworks barrage.

The butane canisters are typically used as fuel for camp stoves. But they also are used in a process to concentrate the THC drug found in marijuana into hash oil.

The operation at the Puyallup house was one of the biggest of several that have come to the attention of authorities when they explode or start fires.

"This was a large-scale operation," Engle said. "It's amazing nobody was hurt."