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Teen's pot experiment sparks Petaluma apartment fire

A 16-year-old boy was burned Tuesday night in a Petaluma apartment fire in what authorities describe as an attempt to make hash oil from marijuana and butane.

The boy, who received minor burns to his face and an arm, was taken from the East Washington Street apartment to Petaluma Valley Hospital. He later was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance and issued a citation to appear in juvenile court, Police Lt. Tim Lyons said.

The fire was reported at 7:27 p.m. at the four-story Downtown River Apartments just east of the Petaluma River.

The building was evacuated, even as flames in the top-floor apartment were quickly extinguished by a fire sprinkler system.

Firefighters found burned kitchen cabinets and a damaged hood vent above the stove, which still had a burner set to "high," Lyons said.

Investigators found at least 15 full and empty cannisters of liquid butane, which is commonly used to fill cigarette lighters.

They also confiscated about 13 ounces of marijuana, including some that was floating in a pot of water on the stove.

The youth told investigators that he and friends had studied how to make hash oil using butane. But in heating the mixture of the drug and the hydrocarbon, a container "exploded in his face, burning him and causing the fire," Lyons said.

Petaluma Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Holden said the process, known as "dabbing," uses butane as a solvent to draw out the marijuana oil. Heat is then used to evaporate the butane. The fire may have started when the stove burner ignited butane vapor.

"This is a really dangerous process," Holden said.


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