Drug lab uncovered in ashes of Providence mill fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A drug lab that used a highly flammable liquid to turn marijuana into a substance called butane hash oil, or BHO, was discovered in the ashes of last week’s fire on Kinsley Avenue, the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal confirmed for Target 12.

“This was not a marijuana growing operation,” Jack Chartier said. “This was a marijuana burning operation.”

Among the items pulled from the ashes of the fire that gutted the 86,000 square-foot building were butane tanks, tubes filled with marijuana, and half-burned marijuana on the floor of the building.

Chartier said the process of turning pot leaves into BHO, which has a syrup-like consistency, involves forcing butane through the marijuana. He said the fuel draws out the THC, the active ingredient in the drug, According to Chartier, the thick liquid that is left is then cooked to boil off the butane. The dangerous recipe is documented on the internet, including a number of fires that have been caused across the country by cooking marijuana into BHO.

“Butane is extremely flammable,” Chartier said.

According to Chartier, the equipment was found in a room at one end of the building, and while investigators are confident that is where the five-alarm fire started, they have not determined that the lab started the fire.

Chartier said the BHO lab was no doubt active before the fire, but investigators did not know how many people were involved when the fire started. The fire marshal said the investigation has not nailed down the ignition source of the fire, but he added butane can be ignited at a low temperatures. He said the U.S. Attorney’s office and Rhode Island Attorney General’s office are now involved in the investigation.

“I cannot say when we will know the exact cause,” Chartier said.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau

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