Santa Cruz police responded to the second residential explosion involving the production of butane hash oil (BHO) within a 10 day timespan. This recent incident occurred at 1:24 p.m. on Oct. 9th at 128 Walk Circle.
“Detectives will continue to follow up on the investigation and appropriate criminal charges for the manufacture of illegal drugs in the home,” said Santa Cruz deputy chief Steve Clark in a press release.
BHO, more commonly referred to as “honey oil,” is a cannabis product extracted from marijuana plants by solvent chemicals, most commonly butane gas. Butane gas is colorless, odorless and highly combustible, and available over-the-counter.
Earlier in February, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) alerted all police and fire departments nationwide of increasing trends in BHO explosions across the country, particularly in states where medical marijuana is legal and increasing in availability.
“We don’t know how much of this [hash oil manufacturing] activity is going on in our community,” said Santa Cruz fire chief Jeff Trapp. “This happening a second time is certainly not a good thing.”
Eleven firefighters arrived at the residence to find a light smoke coming out of the building and blown-out windows. They found no active fire, but multiple signs of an explosion, including damaged walls from intense heat and blown-out doors and windows in the bathroom and the front of the house.
According to the press release, the officers reported that the back-blast from the explosion had blown out the flames. On the floor of the bathroom, where the blast originated, there was a large amount of marijuana as well as over a dozen butane canisters. In addition, the officers found two badly singed dogs, which are currently being cared for at an animal control center.
Witnesses reported that at the time of the explosion they could view the blast from inside the home and a badly burned male was seen driving away from the area. Officers reported that the 29-year-old male resident was attempting to drive himself to the hospital when he met his girlfriend, who drove him to the Dominican Hospital emergency room. He is still in critical condition and awaits a long recovery, according to the Media Release.
This victim had approximately 40 percent of his body scarred, whereas in the previous BHO explosion 60 to 70 percent of the three victims’ bodies were damaged, according to the Santa Cruz Fire Department. Compared to the previous explosion, this most recent one did not inflict as much harm or damage on the victim and the surrounding areas.
“In this one, there was no threat to surrounding property,” Trapp said. “The one on Third Street threatened the apartment building next door, as well as some family units. The potentials for loss of life and severe injuries were definitely more extreme in the previous incident.”
Nonetheless, these extremely dangerous explosions cause intense bodily harm and often leave victims with a long road to recovery.
“When you have a person in a confined space with explosive gas material, they get circumferential burns all over their bodies,” said American Medical Response supervisor Dan Quinto. “Not only that, but the air they breathe in could also burn their respiratory tracts. In these situations we paramedics get really concerned for these victims’ respiratory statuses.”
Trapp stated that even then the consequences of the inflicted damage on the victim is considerable.
“I understand that damage was done to a smaller percentage of the body of this new victim than those of the previous explosion, but it’s still a long recovery,” Trapp said. “No matter what, it takes a lot of time.”
Though these BHO explosion trends have been increasing across the U.S., for the most part these explosions have been unexpected. Currently, Santa Cruz safety officials are expecting more of these incidents to come and are attempting to be better prepared.
“It was quite surprising to me,” Quinto said. “I honestly had no idea why these two events happened so close together. It is very odd and I wondered what the potentials were for everyone to start cooking up hash oil. I believe that it is up to us to always have suspicion and deny access to these events as much as possible.”