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Crystal meth lab had explosive potential
The timing of a Tuesday night fire that led to Richmond Fire-Rescue discovering an active, large-scale, crystal meth lab in a rental house next to Henry Anderson Elementary School, might have been a blessing in disguise.
Had the blaze happened in the middle of the night as the neighbourhood slept, there could have been an explosive and possibly deadly outcome instead.
But as fate would have it, residents of the central Richmond neighbourhood called 911 as soon as they spotted smoke billowing from an open window, the chimney, and the edges of the garage door some time around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Richmond Fire-Rescue responded to 9440 Alberta Rd. and extinguished the blaze before it swept through the two-storey home, that according to one neighbour was sold about a year ago and was being rented out.
Pabby Nijjer has been living in the neighbourhood for 15 years, and was shocked to learn her neighbour was storing large quantities of volatile chemical precursors for the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine.
On the morning of the fire, there must have been somebody in the home as the garbage had been brought to the curb, she said.
She described occasionally seeing a skinny Asian man in his 50s and wearing glasses living in the home, and driving a modest car.
“I never thought that something will happen next to me. Very scary.”
An extensive system of circular ventilation pipes reaching through the garage ceiling, numerous oil-drum sized blue plastic containers, and a long list of chemical precursors were found by Richmond RCMP’s clandestine drug lab team.
Richmond RCMP Cpl. Stephanie Ashton said police found a significant amount of finished crystal meth inside the house, and signs that the occupants left quickly, judging from the items that were left behind.
Investigators have yet to track down any suspects, but have determined that the occupants were “fairly new renters,” Ashton said.
The fact the house was directly beside an elementary school was disturbing, she said, posing a serious threat from both the perspective of an explosive hazard, as well as the ventilation of toxic chemicals into the air.
“We’re right next to an elementary school and to a children’s daycare...Had there not been a fire, they could have continued to be operating while school was in session.”
Classes are out for summer at Anderson Elementary, which is separated from the house by a large hedge that’s perhaps four-metres high and runs the entire eastern length of the north-facing house.
As of Thursday afternoon, no arrests had been made, but the police investigation is continuing, with plenty of information in the house for investigators to search through for leads.
Anyone with information about the house’s occupants is asked to call the Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212, or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.