Friday, January 19, 2007

Methamphetamine Labs and Rocket Science

Methamphetamine- Crystal, Ice, Crank, or just Meth.

Very bad stuff folks.

For those who don’t know;

Methamphetamine is a very addictive stimulant drug that activates certain systems in the brain. It is chemically related to amphetamine but, at comparable doses, the effects of methamphetamine are much more potent, longer lasting, and more harmful to the central nervous system (CNS).
- From the National Institute for Drug Abuse

In other words, this is some bad stuff. I’ve seen it a couple of times in person, both times it was in the “evidence bag” of the police. I’ve seen the effects much more often while on the ambulance. It only takes seeing an addict once or twice to be able to recognize the symptoms right off.

More germane to this story, I’ve seen the labs used to make it several times. I’ve been inside drug labs a few times in my career in the fire department. They have all looked the same while I was in there, lots of fire. Not the little flames like in a campfire, we’re talking towering inferno flames here. Floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall flames. A sea of flames.

You see folks; the scum who make this stuff, often do it at home. Sometimes in a garage, sometimes in the living room. Sometimes in the apartment right next to the single mother with two kids. They're not real picky about being safe. Most of them aren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. Some of them barely flicker.

I’m not going to give out the formula or process, but suffice to say it involves dangerous and highly flammable chemicals.

Your average accidental house fire, from say a cigarette in the couch cushion, takes roughly five to seven minutes from the first sign of flames (about the size of match flame) to fill an average room with flames.

Your average drug lab fire takes about, oh, two, to three seconds. Yes, I said seconds.

That makes it very dangerous for folks like yours truly. To make it worse, these “makers” often have excess chemicals stored in the “lab”. So, when the firefighters get there, just as they are making entry into the fire, the container of flammable liquid ruptures, and it looks like a napalm strike.

Very impressive to see that, unless you’re the guy at the door when it happens.
Hard to miss too. You don’t even have to search to find the fire. It literally jumps out at you.

Anyway, one night we get a call to an apartment complex in town for a fire. While we are en route, dispatch tells us they have multiple calls on it, a sure sign that something is going on there.

We arrive to find the third apartment on the second floor on fire. Lots of fire. I was the nozzle man, so I grab the hose and start upstairs.

Now, a common and very worthwhile practice is to stretch your fire hose past the point you want to enter. That way it is easier to get it inside. You only have to pull it into the apartment, not up the stairs-around the corner- and into the apartment.

So, I pull the hose up the stairs, and begin to pull it past the apartment door. In order for me to get past the door, I have to crawl on hands and knees because of the amount of flames coming out of the windows and front door.

So picture if you will; it’s night and dark. I’m on the second floor common balcony with flames jumping out of the apartment above me. Flames are 15-feet into the night sky.

As I pull the hose past the door, the resident of the apartment (who also happens to be the maker/dealer/distributor) yells at me from the ground below: “NO NO NO! You’re passing it! It’s THAT apartment!”
As if I didn’t know.

No shit Sherlock.
Regular rocket scientist you are.

Maybe while he's in prison he'll get his PhD, but I doubt it.

Mr Fixit

1 comment:

Ordinary Janet said...

From what I've heard and read, the smells coming from a meth lab are unmistakable. (we asked my sister who works at the police department to ask what it smells like because we smelled something funny coming from a house on the street.) I don't know how anyone can live in an apartment building with those fumes.