Fire In Drug Lab Injures Two, Including One Child

February 14, 2002

"Fire In Drug Lab Injures Two, Including One Child"

Los Angeles: On Wednesday, February 13, 2002 at approximately 11:30 a.m. the Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to a residential fire at the 5500 block of Media Ave. Upon their arrival the firefighters observed an adult female, approximately 20 years of age, and a juvenile female, approximately 10 years of age, outside the burning unit. Both females showed obvious signs of distress and were suffering from burns on their upper bodies. The two females were transported to the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center burn ward for treatment. The Fire Department Arson investigators believed the origin of the fire to be possibly related to an illegal drug laboratory.
Detectives assigned to Narcotics Division, Clandestine Laboratory Squad, were notified and responded to assist the Fire Department. The investigation revealed that suspects were crunching pseudoephedrine tablets and soaking them in a flammable liquid. The vapors of the solvent used in the process accumulated inside the residence reaching explosive levels as the two females watched television. The vapors ignited and caused the explosion and subsequent fire. The "pill crunching" process is the first stage in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. The illicit lab was capable of manufacturing multiple ounces of methamphetamine. Detectives completed a search warrant and presented it to a magistrate for approval. The warrant was served at the location. Detectives recovered evidence indicating the location was being used to "crunch" pseudoephedrine, in violation of 11383 of the Health & Safety Code, the primary precursor for manufacturing methamphetamine.
During the investigation, detectives determined that nine additional minor children, ages 1 1/2 to 15 years of age, were exposed to the illicit drug lab and hazardous materials. The children were related to suspects involved in the manufacturing. The Department of Social Services was contacted and representatives from the Drug Endangered Children’s Unit responded to assist detectives with medical treatment and placement of the minors. A Child Endangering report was completed and the minors were detained under the authority of 300 (J) of the Wefare &Institutions Code. LAPD Narcotic detectives will assist Northeast Juvenile Detectives with the child endangering investigation. Several suspects involved in the drug lab have been indentified, but as of yet no arrests have been made.
This press release was prepared by Public Information Officer Nadine Hernandez, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.