Authorities investigate meth lab explosion on Vashon

Authorities are still investigating the Vashon property that was rocked last week by an explosion to determine whether they'll file charges against the man who lived there for manufacturing methamphetamine on the property.

While they're sure the man was producing methamphetamine, it's a matter of getting all their questions answered before charges can be filed, officials said.

"There was a meth lab there," said King County Sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart, a spokesperson for the department. "And we're investigating it as a meth lab."

Officials have not yet interviewed the resident of the home in the 24200 block of S.W. 129th Avenue because he is in the hospital suffering from severe burns.

The resident, who was likely in a backyard shed at his property when it exploded on Monday, is in stable condition in the Harborview Medical Center burn Intensive Care Unit, according to a nurse there on Monday. Twenty percent of his body is covered in burns, she said.

Because the burn victim has not been arrested or charged with a crime, The Beachcomber, per its policy, is not naming him.

King County Sheriff's investigators combed the scene of the explosion, at a manufactured home in the woods on southwest Vashon Island and found multiple items suggesting that residents had been making methamphetamine there.

On Thursday, officials had said that they would not be filing charges against the home's resident, because most of the evidence showing methamphetamine was being manufactured at the property had been incinerated.

But Monday, Urquhart said the resident of the home in the 24200 block of S.W. 129th Avenue was under investigation for producing illegal drugs on his property.

The Jan. 4 incident, which occurred at 7:25 a.m., was a fire that took place in a backyard shed, followed by an explosion, said Gerry Kenny, a county fire/arson investigator. The exact cause of the fire and explosion are still unknown, he said.

"That's the part I need to talk to (the burn victim) about," Kenny said. He's waiting until the man "heals up more," he added.

The home where the fire took place had long been suspected as a hotspot of illegal drug activity, according to neighbors. On Monday, neighbors declined to comment about the resident of the home or the recent activity there.

Methamphetamine is a highly toxic illegal substance that can be made by combining common household or industrial chemicals. Its use is associated with aggressive behavior, paranoid delusions and anxiety.

Though several properties on Vashon have been busted for growing marijuana, it is much rarer that someone has been caught making methamphetamine on the Island.

But Islanders should still be aware of the drug and its deleterious effects, officials and advocates said.

"This recent incident is yet another example of how every Islander really is affected by substance use," said Marianne Rose, director of Holistic Approaches to Recovery Treatment, an alcohol and drug treatment center that opened on Vashon last year.

Rose has worked with addicted populations on Vashon for years, and said methamphetamine is something she and her fellow Chemical Dependency Professionals worry about.

"In addition to tax dollars for the outcomes of addiction — treatment cycles, judicial systems, medical care — meth presents intense environmental impact," she said. "From the toxic saturation of the buildings where it's produced to the surrounding air around the community, production of meth affects everyone."

County records show that the property where Monday's explosion took place was deemed in 2006 contaminated with dangerous chemicals used to produce methamphetamine; it was cleaned up in 2007.

Culturally, Rose said, "meth may be considered the worst (drug) right now."

"Years ago, heroin use was perceived as the farthest out point in addiction," she said. "In the '90s, crack was the epidemic, and today, there is a tendency to view meth users as beyond reach. While obviously meth is as vicious on the human system as it is to the environment, no one is beyond hope if we are willing to understand the bigger picture."

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