Volume 13 – Issue 6
February 7, 2013
US Fire Administration FEMA
Some explosions in residences and hotels around the country are being traced back to a process using butane to extract and concentrate compounds from marijuana. The extraction method appears to be more common on the west coast; reported fires and explosions have blown out windows, walls, and caused numerous burn injuries.
Depending on conditions at the scene, these explosions can be misidentified as pipe bombs (because of the extraction vessel used) or methamphetamine lab explosions. First responders, fire marshals, bomb squads, and drug task force personnel should receive training to identify items used in hash oil extraction.
Butane is necessary for the process and is available over-the-counter in 8-ounce cans. The extraction process uses one whole can and multiple cans will likely be at the scene. Butane is highly explosive, colorless, odorless, and heavier than air and therefore can travel along the floor until it encounters an ignition source.
The process also uses isopropyl or anhydrous alcohol, both flammable; extraction vessels; glass dishes; ether; and coffee filters. The resulting substance is a thick yellow-orange oil called hash oil, honey oil, Butane Honey Oil (BHO), or dabs.
Initial explosions can lead to secondary explosions and fires. In states with legalized use and availability of medical marijuana, these incidents appear to be increasing. In some of these states the legality of the actual production process is still in debate.
(Source: Seattle Times)