YUCAIPA – San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, who were looking for two men suspected of being involved in a drug lab explosion on Thursday, detained one after he showed up for treatment at a local hospital.
The men were seen running from the Yu-Cal Motel on Yucaipa Boulevard shortly before 4 p.m. after the explosion, which seriously damaged one of the rooms.
One unidentified suspect was peeling off his shirt before getting into a small red car and fleeing from the scene with the other suspect. That suspect went to Loma Linda Medical Center for treatment. Investigators from the Sheriff’s Narcotics Division are still searching for the second man.
The suspect was not arrested, said sheriff’s spokesman Cynthia Bachman. “If he’s in custody, or if he’s wanted, we’ll release the name,” she said. “They might arrest him once he’s released from the hospital.”
She had no information on the second suspect.
Firefighters, located almost directly across the street from the motel, got the blaze under control by 4:25 p.m. No other injuries were reported.
San Bernardino County spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire said investigators learned that the men were attempting to conduct a dangerous process extracting a chemical from marijuana plants.
“It’s a dangerous process,” Wiltshire said, “considering the volatile chemicals being used.”
By 6 p.m., investigators had donned protective clothing to inspect the room. Investigators learned the men were trying to extract the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). “One spark,” said Cal Fire spokesman Bill Peters, “can set off a fire. It only takes a small spark.”
Flames and thick black smoke could be seen coming out of the motel, which is a quarter-mile west of Yucaipa High School. Wiltshire said witnesses watched one burning man roll around on the ground to put the fire out before leaving the scene.
They were gone once firefighters and sheriff’s deputies arrived.
Peters said the explosion damaged two motel rooms, displacing about a dozen residents.
He also said the damage might have been far worse if firefighters weren’t located so close to the scene, able to get the fire under control quickly. “They got it knocked down right away,” said Peters.