Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jun 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat


SACRAMENTO - Tracey Clark's two teenage sons landed in intensive 
care, enveloped in gauze and their faces raw and red from burns over 
40 to 60 percent of their bodies suffered in a fire, which 
prosecutors say was caused by an illegal hash-oil lab at their uncle's duplex.

"I was scared they were going to die," said Clark.

Similar scenes have played out throughout California in recent years 
as intense fires from the illegal manufacture of butane hash oil - 
cheap and easy to make but extremely volatile - have exploded

At two of Northern California's major burn treatment centers  UC 
Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and Shriners Hospitals for 
Children, Northern California - injuries from butane hash-oil 
explosions account for 8 to 10 percent of severe burn cases, a larger 
percentage than from car wrecks and house fires combined, said Dr. 
David Greenhalgh, chief burn surgeon at both hospitals.

"It's kind of an epidemic for us," Greenhalgh said. There have been 
times when half of the 12 beds in UC Davis' burn unit were filled 
with patients injured in hash-oil explosions, he said.

Between 2007 and 2014, 101 patients with suspected or confirmed burns 
from butane fires were admitted to the two hospitals, most of them in 
the past three years, according to Greenhalgh. Most were adults, but 
six of the admitted patients were under 18.

Statewide, illegal manufacturing of hash oil has become a public 
health menace on a par with illegal methamphetamine labs in prior 
decades. While federal and state statistics on butane hash-oil 
explosions are not readily available, there are numerous reports of 
arrests and fires at the local level.

In Butte County, for instance, prosecutors said 31 illegal hash-oil 
operations were uncovered in 2014. "We're already on track to exceed 
that this year," District Attorney Michael Ramsey said. The numbers 
are similar to the annual count of meth labs the county was breaking 
up in the 1980s and '90s, he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom