Dec. 28–One firefighter suffered minor injuries Friday morning when a methamphetamine lab exploded in an abandoned house in Hamblen County, officials said.
Hamblen County Chief Deputy Wayne Mize said the firefighter, whose name was not released, was treated at the scene.
Neighbors on St. Paul Road called Hamblen County E-911 dispatchers at about 6:30 a.m., saying they heard an explosion, Mize said.
The chief said fire was discovered in the basement at the back of the empty house.
“The South Hamblen County Volunteer Fire Department determined it was a meth lab in progress,” Mize said. “One of the firemen, he got a whiff of it, and EMS checked him out and he didn’t have to go to the hospital.”
The chief said the fire was contained to the back of the basement, which has cinder block walls.
“But there was enough wood on fire, we had to drag it out and that’s when we found all kinds of apparatus where they were cooking meth,” he said.
Mize said no one was found at the scene.
“From what we saw at the scene, they were there and had to leave immediately,” Mize said. “We called all the area hospitals to let us know if anybody comes in with burns indicating they had been cooking meth, but we haven’t heard from anybody yet.”
The chief said the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force responded and provided hazardous materials suits and respirators to clean out the basement.
“We’ll have to pay for disposal of the meth,” he said. “It gets expensive. It is around $2,500 to do this.”
Mize said the number of meth labs reported in Hamblen County has been on the decline recently, in part because users can buy it more cheaply than they can make it.
“Doing it in an abandoned house on a country road, they must have felt it was less of a risk than getting caught buying it on street,” he said.