A house fire on North Barron Street, Friday, March 14, has brought the risks of a dangerous and potentially lethal drug of choice for some into the spotlight.
Methamphetamine, known as “crystal meth”, “meth”, “ice”, “crank,” and others, is a concoction of various chemicals which can often times result in explosions if the “cooking” process is not done correctly.
While heroin is the most “popular” drug for users recently, meth has not disappeared according to local authorities.
“Until 2010/2011, meth was the number one major narcotic we found, from 2011 until present it’s been heroin. Not to say meth has gone away, it hasn’t, but we certainly find a lot more heroin. We’re starting to see people who were using meth, or using heroin, or were using both. So meth hasn’t gone away, nor do I think it will go away, but the drug market is driven like anything else, by availability and price; and right now, heroin is in abundance and it’s cheap,” said Eaton Police Chief Chad DePew.
“We’ve never turned our back on [meth] and focused on one thing,” said Detective Pete Wray with the Eaton Police Division. “We’ve tried to multi-task a little bit and in between, you’ve got prescription drugs that have always been a problem and probably always will be. So it’s a never-ending battle, really.”
According DePew, meth labs weren’t on Eaton’s drug scene until roughly 2003.
“We had heard of meth labs maybe being in the state, maybe in southwest Ohio, but nothing we had ever come across before,” said DePew. However, since a traffic stop in 2003 made by Wray, DePew and other officers began seeing meth more often. Although meth has been on the scene for approximately 11 years now, DePew believes this drug may have been under the radar for some time before.
“When we first started getting involved, before we could make the community aware, we had to educate ourselves. We started holding training for our officers, our fire and EMS, because there’s a good possibility that there had been previous instances where we went into a house and maybe stepped right over what was actually a meth lab.”
The first meth lab bust, however, occurred in 2005, according to Det. Wray, who specializes in meth-related cases, and knows first-hand what dangers meth labs can bring.
“It’s the toxic chemicals, you’ll have respiratory problems which could occur, it’s very flammable even though you might know what you’re doing. It still takes that one little spark or one little drop of water hits a little piece of lithium, or something to make it spark,” said Det. Wray.
“There’s a lot of people who think that because they’ve watched people do it, that they know how to do it, so they go off on their own and try to do it and that’s really dangerous, or when you’ve been up for days, and days, and days at a time, your brain doesn’t function right. You just get careless and stupid, you know, seeing people light cigarettes… there are idiots,” said a recovering meth addict, whose name has been withheld to ensure confidentiality.
“These folks are not chemists,” said Eaton Fire Chief Jack Royer. “It’s just a real recipe for a problem.”
“In my opinion, meth has not gone away. Even in the last couple of years, we’ve only had two labs which were clean up, dump sites where people throw their trash after cooks,” said Det. Wray.
Because of the common use of everyday materials used to manufacture meth, Cheif DePew explained the ease of overlooking the elements in the early years. Materials can include lithium batteries, acetone, propane, and others.
“When you start taking these products and you take the material out of the battery, that’s product A, and when that is going through a chemical reaction, it’s going to release a gas of some kind, and that gas has its own flammable, explosive characteristics. So you’ve got item number one, you take whatever other product they’re using, and you reduce that through some kind of chemical reaction, you’ve created another product,” Royer said.
“Sometimes it’s one of those things where product A and product B together don’t necessarily equal C, it might equal D, which could end up becoming more hazardous and more combustible and more dangerous than what the individual properties of these products were … Any one of those byproducts of combustion can create all kinds of toxic hazards, explosion hazards, and fire hazards.”
The end product of a meth lab-related fire can be detrimental and can destroy large portions of a home, if not destroy a structure completely, and chemicals used to cook meth are released into the atmosphere, according to officials.
An arrest has been made in connection to the recent house fire on North Barron Street, however the investigation regarding the circumstances surrounding the crime continues.