Explosion blows Mount Baker business off foundation

by: Gary Horcher Updated:

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SEATTLE —

The entire little flower shop on McClellan and Rainier Avenue shuddered, as if jolted by thunder. Darrell Christensen thought part of the building suddenly caved in.

“We just felt such a percussion,” he said.

The percussion Darrell was feeling was caused by an explosive trend in the local marijuana trade. A hash-oil lab in an abandoned apartment behind the store exploded.

The blast, which was caused by butane gas stored in a refrigerator, ripped off the fridge door, blew out glass in windows, tore out the front porch post—burst insulation through walls, and even ripped out the kitchen sink.

No one was inside the apartment when the explosion happened.

Narcotics detectives say flammable liquid butane is commonly used in the dangerous process of chemically extracting the potent drug hash-oil from marijuana. The process calls for explosive liquid butane removing the potent THC from marijuana plants, and boiled down into a waxy oil, known as hash oil, or honey oil.

Detectives told KIRO 7 a single spark in Tuesday’s case from a refrigerator motor can blow a house off of its foundation.

Darrell Christensen was grateful he walked away from the explosion, and no-one else was hurt.

“I really didn't think about that until later. Lucky the fridge was facing this way, and not toward the shop,” he said.

Detectives were searching for suspects connected with the explosion, and the illegal pot grow operation found in the basement of the apartment. The building’s owner was being questioned Tuesday.

Last week, two men were badly hurt when butane gas from their hash-oil lab exploded in their Kirkland apartment.

Five months before that, three people suffered burns when butane in the same kind of drug lab blasted out the walls of an apartment building in Mount Vernon.

“We've seen these explosive labs all around the region and across the nation. These types of operations in residential zones are not safe, said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore.

FEMA even issued a recent warning to emergency workers across the country, saying a butane blast can do as much damage as detonating a large bomb.

Tuesday’s explosion pushed walls 6 inches out, prompting city engineers to declare the building unsafe.