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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 9:33 pm | Fair 46º


Suspected Drug Lab Discovered after ‘Flash Fire’ Injures Man Near Downtown Santa Barbara

Victim treated for minor burns, then arrested on suspicion of drug manufacturing following blaze at residence in 700 block of De la Vina Street

Santa Barbara firefighters responding to a Saturday night structure fire in the 700 block of De la Vina Street found what they believe was a drug lab. Law enforcement was called in to investigate.
Santa Barbara firefighters responding to a Saturday night structure fire in the 700 block of De la Vina Street found what they believe was a drug lab. Law enforcement was called in to investigate. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

Firefighters responding to a structure fire in downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday night found what they believe to be an illegal lab for making hallucinogenic drugs, according to the Santa Barbara Fire Department.

Laurence Larsen Click to view larger
Laurence Larsen

Crews were dispatched shortly before 6 p.m. to the 700 block of De la Vina Street, where a “flash fire” had occurred inside a residence, fire Battalion Chief Jim McCoy said.

He said one resident sustained minor burns to both arms and was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment.

By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze had mostly been quelled by a neighbor with a fire extinguisher, McCoy said, and crews finished the job and ventilated smoke from the residence.

The neighbor suffered possible smoke inhalation, and also was taken to the hospital.

Law enforcement was called in due to the suspected drug lab, and personnel from various department remained on scene until early Sunday.

“The fire definitely can be described as suspicious,” McCoy said.

A Santa Barbara police spokesman said he did not know what type of drugs allegedly were being produced, and referred questions to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Barbara Region Narcotics Enforcement Team.

“It was determined the subject was likely attempting to produce dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a powerful hallucinogenic drug,” according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

She said the manufacturing process requires the extraction of chemicals from root bark through the use of highly toxic and flammable chemicals in an extraction vessel over an open flame.

During this extraction process is when investigators suspect the subject added paint thinner to the mixture in glass jars, which overflowed and ignited on the open flames, causing a large fire, “similar to throwing gasoline on an open fire,” Hoover explained.

After treatment at the hospital, the suspect, Laurence Larsen, 26, of Santa Barbara was booked at County Jail on charges of manufacturing an illegal substance and illegally causing a fire with injuries.

“This is still an active investigation and more charges are pending,” Hoover said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department at 805.683.2724 or the sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at 805.681.4171.

Hoover also noted that DMT is a Schedule I drug and has many health risks associated with its use, including intense visuals and hallucinations (which alter the user’s concept and perception of time and reality), stomach discomfort, overwhelming fear, paranoid thoughts of impending doom, lung irritation, increased heart rate and body temperature.

DMT users also can go into a state of unconsciousness or slip into a drug-induced coma, which can lead to death due to the user vomiting or choking to death.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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