Matthew Shane Bledsaw, 35, was arrested on complaints of first-degree arson and manufacturing a controlled substance.
More than 60 methamphetamine labs have been discovered in homes, motels and businesses or discarded on streets and in trash bins throughout the city this year, according to police records. Last year, a record-setting 323 labs were found in Tulsa.
Firefighters responded to the house fire in the 5800 block of East 76th Place about 4 a.m., said Tim Smallwood, the Tulsa Fire Department’s public information officer. Three people escaped from the house with flames shooting 20 to 30 feet into the air, he said.
Hazardous materials crews were called to the scene after investigators discovered what appeared to be a meth lab in the home, he said. A police report indicates that fire investigators determined that the fire was the result of methamphetamine manufacturing.
The residents, whom firefighters found watching the fire from one their cars, said the fire started in a back bedroom, Smallwood said.
Bledsaw was identified as the boyfriend of a woman who lived at the home. Police and court records identify the home as his residence.
Bledsaw agreed to talk to investigators, an arrest report states. He said he woke up to find the closet on fire and that he burned his hand while trying to extinguish the flames, the report states.
During a search of the home, officers discovered instant-cold packs, a white substance that was determined to be salt and another white substance that was determined to be sodium hydroxide. All of these items are used in the manufacturing of meth, police records state.
Bledsaw was convicted in 2005 of driving while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor and was convicted in 1995 of unlawful possession of marijuana, Tulsa County District Court records show.
Eric Jones, who lives in the south-Tulsa neighborhood, said he had not seen any unusual activity at the home leading up to the fire.
“There just wasn’t a lot of traffic in and out of the house,” he said.
Even though the house didn’t appear to be a typical meth-lab home, Jones said it didn’t surprise him that someone could be making drugs secretly and cause a fire in his neighborhood.
“Honestly, it’s not because of any specific things,” he said. “I just look at the statistics. It’s just as likely in south Tulsa as it is in north Tulsa.”
Meth labs have been discovered in all areas of the city in recent years, largely because of an increase in the volatile “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” method of manufacturing methamphetamine, authorities have said.
Of the 323 labs found last year, 52 were in multifamily residences, a category that includes hotels, motels and apartment complexes.
Seven children were taken into custody after being found at Tulsa locations with meth labs last year.
Meanwhile, a bill that would require a prescription for tablets that contain pseudoephedrine is pending consideration by the state House of Representatives. Pseudoephedrine is a main ingredient in meth manufacturing.
The legislation would not require a prescription for the gel or liquid forms of the medicine.
If the House doesn’t pass the bill before the end of the day Thursday, it would be dead for the year, although its language could be introduced into other legislation.