Hash oil cooks accidentally blow up their camper

See the results of the blast that rocked awake residents in a section of the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood …

Portland Fire & Rescue fighters don’t find a blaze in the driveway of this home – a location they say they visited last month. Instead, a blown-up camper on the back of a pickup truck. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

What neighbors described as a “massive explosion” echoed through the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, about two blocks east of Gilbert Heights Elementary School and park, at 4:00 a.m. on April 3.

“I thought a bomb went off,” remarked Betty Naylor, who lives on the same block where chemical fumes detonated inside of a camper parked in the driveway at 13120 SE Center Street.

From the side, in this photo taken hours after the explosion, it appears the sides, back, and roof were blown right off the camper.

As she looked at the debris that remained in the driveway later that morning, Naylor told East Portland News, “There’s nothing left of it. I’m surprised that they lived through it.”

There was no fire in the camper when crews arrived, said Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Inspector Ron Rouse. “Not knowing what caused an explosion when they come on-scene, firefighters are trained to cautiously approach a blast site.”

Firefighters wait for an “all clear” before cautiously approaching the blast scene.

Rouse told East Portland News that, based on recent experience, investigators suspected that “hashish oil” was being extracted from marijuana in the camper when the explosion occurred.

Firefighters were called to an explosion at the same address just a month before this early-morning blast, Rouse pointed out.

According to US Drug Enforcement Agency information, “hash cooks” use butane – the highly flammable gas typically used to fuel portable catering burners – to extract an oil from marijuana that contains high levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), believed to be the main chemical ingredient that produces a “high” for users.

Emergency first responders located two people who were suffering burns as a result of the explosion, later revealed Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson. “An adult female was transported to a Portland hospital, where she was treated and released. An adult male refused medical treatment.”

Another Portland Police car enters the neighborhood.

PF&R Arson Investigators and officers assigned to the PPB Drugs and Vice Division responded to the scene, Simpson said. “They learned that the male and female were inside [the camper when] the explosion occurred – as a result of a butane stove explosion during the manufacture of hash oil.”

Officials say this steel chain-link fence may have kept flying debris from hurtling into the neighbor’s house.

Both Rouse and Simpson said that no structures were damaged as a result of the explosion.

“This case remains under investigation,” Simpson said.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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