Sylvan, Gresham, Washington state also record explosions

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - Forest Grove firefighters returned to the scene of the early morning blaze at about 7:30 a.m. after the fire flared up again. An explosion in Forest Grove Friday in which a man suffered serious burns is the latest in a rash of accidents related to the home manufacture of hash oil, a high-potency extract of marijuana.

The man, who has not been named but is known to be in his 20s, was in critical condition Friday afternoon at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland after he and others allegedly attempted to make hash oil using butane, a flammable solvent, inside a home at the corner of 22nd Avenue and Main Street.

Fire and police responded to the resulting explosion and two-alarm fire just after 5 a.m. Jan. 10. There were four others in the house at the time. Three were injured — one by jumping from a second-story window — but did not require hospital care, according to emergency officials.

A Pacific University security camera recorded the explosion on videotape.

“We are seeing an increase in these explosions, especially in the Pacific Northwest and where states are allowing medical marijuana,” said Capt. Mike Herb, spokesman for the Forest Grove Police Department.

The most popular way of making hash oil — a high-potency extract of marijuana — involves the use of flammable solvents, particularly butane, which can be purchased in hardware stores. When a heat source interacts with the solvent, a violent explosion can occur.

In March 2013, a blast in the 1900 block of C Street in Forest Grove injured five people, and three cats died as a result of the occupants’ attempt to extract tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from marijuana leaves. A hash oil explosion occurred “within the last year” at a home in the Sylvan area of Washington County, Herb said. And last May, another such incident caused fatal burns to a man in Gresham.

In Washington state, where voters approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, three hash oil manufacturing-related accidents have been recorded in recent weeks. Bellevue recorded a blast in November; Kirkland in December; and on Jan. 7, a blast in Seattle tore the façade off an apartment building where occupants were cooking hash oil.

“This is an extremely dangerous practice, and [Friday’s incident] is not the last one we will hear of,” said Herb. “It used to be meth labs. This is the new danger.”

Investigators with the Westside Interagency Narcotics Team are assisting Forest Grove Police with the investigation. 

House built for Dilley community namesake

It used to be an historic home, built in 1875 by J.N. Campbell and purchased seven years later by Milton Elias Dilley, the namesake of the Dilley community south of Forest Grove.

Last Friday, much of the once stately Gothic Revival-style house — now a rambling rental property — was destroyed in an explosion caused by a tenant suspected of manufacturing hash oil.

But the owners of the home located at 1933 22nd Ave. say they plan to rebuild.

“We have every intent to reconstruct the home,” said Banks resident Lori Godfrey, a Realtor who owns the house with her husband, Eric Goff.

Before they can make a move, however, the couple must wait for their insurance company to process their claim.

Godfrey said “no one had raised any red flags” that hinted illegal activity had been occurring on their property. “If we’d had any idea, we would have contacted the police immediately and the person would have been bounced.”

Godfrey said she and her husband liked how close the house was to Pacific University (it sits on the corner of Main Street and 22nd Avenue just north of Parr Lumber). “And we were attracted by the historical nature of the home.”

Dilley wanted his children to attend the nearby Tualatin Academy (now Pacific University), according to an Oregon Inventory of Historic Properties document.

Originally built as a single-family residence, the home was made of stucco-over-brick and featured a beveled exterior, “jigsaw bargeboards and fascia” and a triangular panel in its main gable.

Over the years it has changed owners a half-dozen times and undergone significant alterations, including additions to the rear and a major conversion to multiple housing units.

Godfrey and Gross purchased the 2,545-square-foot home in 2011 for $202,500.

Forest Grove Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer said the home “is pretty gutted as far as possessions go” and what wasn’t directly burned is heavily smoke-damaged.

But the basic structure and foundation remain intact, he said.

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