Comments Off on Apartment Methamphetamine lab catches fire day after the Springfield City Council tables anti-meth bill

Flaming liquid — the toxic byproduct of a meth lab gone bad — dripped from a third-floor breezeway to the second, then to the first.

All three floors of a south-side apartment building briefly caught fire Tuesday evening after volatile chemicals oozed through cracks in the wooden decking.

The apartment fire, which fire officials say was stopped within minutes of growing much more serious, came one day after Springfield City Council voted to postpone action on a proposal that some supporters said could nearly eliminate meth labs in the city.

The charred remains of a meth lab were dragged by firefighters from the front door of a third-floor apartment to the parking lot. Springfield police say evidence has been recovered from this heap confirming it was a meth lab.

The charred remains of a meth lab were dragged by firefighters from the front door of a third-floor apartment to the parking lot. Springfield police say evidence has been recovered from this heap confirming it was a meth lab




The irony was not lost on Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, who has strongly supported a prescription requirement for the sinus medicine pseudoephedrine — a main ingredient used by meth makers.

“Here is another example of why I am so passionate about the prescription (requirement),” Williams said.

“The root cause of this is pseudoephedrine… It’s caused by the very thing we are trying to eliminate.”

Williams said the meth lab is under investigation and no arrests have been made.

He declined to comment on the details of the investigation, but he said that generally, these types of fires start when a meth cook makes a mistake. There is an explosion, followed by fire, and the cook abandons the lab to avoid getting caught, Williams said.

While City Council was considering a prescription requirement, head narcotics officer Sgt. Bryan DiSylvester often warned city leaders of a worst-case scenario — an apartment or motel fire caused by a meth lab that results in injury or death of someone innocent.

According to a News-Leader review of police data, meth labs were found by police in at least 22 apartments between January 2010 and March 2013. Another 22 labs were found in hotel and motel rooms during the same time frame.

Meth lab explosions have been reported at a rate of about one per year for the last three years, and all were in residential homes. One explosion led to a fatal house fire — killing the experienced cook in the basement of 426 W. Minota St. in June 2012.

“This is what DiSylvester cautioned about,” Williams said. “Thankfully it didn’t happen this time, but like he said, ‘it’s only a matter of time.’ ”

Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky has heard DiSylvester’s dire prediction several times. She heads the council committee that spent months reviewing the prescription issue before unanimously recommending adoption of the proposal.

“I’m not surprised,” Rushefsky said of Tuesday night’s meth lab and fire.

Rushefsky was outspokenly opposed to postponing action on the pseudoephedrine ordinance and chastised Councilman Craig Fishel, Mayor Bob Stephens and others who acted to block a vote on the controversial measure.

Fishel and others said they would rather wait and see if the state legislature might act to limit pseudoephedrine. They voted 5-4 to postpone until after the legislative session — June 2014.

Rushefsky said Wednesday that council should have taken the “simple step” to require a prescription for pseudoephdrine and thereby mitigate the risks caused by meth labs.

“Council bears some of the responsibility for anything like this that might happen during this next year.”

Although five council members voted Monday to postpone the measure until next year, City Clerk Brenda Cirtin said a majority on council could vote to put the ordinance back on the agenda before June 2014.

The damage to Polo Club Apartments on Tuesday was minor due, in part, to the quick action of an apartment resident, said Springfield Fire Marshal Phil Noah.

“If it would have been undetected for just a few more minutes, it would have been a lot different outcome,” Noah said.

Noah said a woman was returning from a grocery store to her home at the apartments, 4347 S. Weller Ave., when she saw smoke.

The woman rushed to where the smoke was to find fire in the doorway of an apartment.

She used an extinguisher to fight the fire before alerting other residents, who then had time to evacuate, Noah said.

“She did a really good job,” Noah said.

About 12 apartments were evacuated because of the fire, although the building houses more units, Noah said.




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