A man trying to make hash oil with highly flammable butane gas sparked an explosion at a west Santa Rosa home early Monday, suffering burns across his upper body and a foot, fire investigators said.
Daniel Wilson, 30, who was identified by a roommate and a fire official, ran out of the house carrying burning debris after the explosion, reported at 11:12 a.m. The house is one of two homes on the Chico Avenue acreage west of South Wright Road.
A neighbor who lives on the property was outside in the yard with two of her five children when they heard the explosion and watched as fire spewed from windows and the front door of the modest, single-story home where Wilson had been staying on a couch.
“Fire blew out the (window) screen and came underneath the door — it was scary,” said Spring Lemley, the neighbor.
Wilson apparently brought some of the burning items outside, and in the process suffered burns across about a quarter of his upper body, including his head and hands as well as his left foot, Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Scott Moon said.
“He was in the process of creating honey oil, or hash oil, a drug-manufacturing process,” Moon said. “It is obviously not a very safe process that utilizes butane gas in the form of a compressed can.”
Last year, firefighters responded to a series of hash oil explosions that authorities said followed a surge in popularity for the drug. Hash oil is a hard, sticky gel with a concentrated dose of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. Although the legal status of hash oil is murky, medical cannabis manufacturers often use a less dangerous but expensive extraction machine that uses carbon dioxide to create the waxy chunks also known as honey oil.
But others who wish to make the potent stuff turn to a makeshift and volatile process that involves stuffing a tube with marijuana leaves, also called shake, and blasting the leaves with butane gas. The process is extremely hazardous.
At the Chico Avenue house, Wilson appeared to have lit the butane in a television room on one end of the house, according to Moon.
The gas accumulated and spread throughout the structure, traveling from the TV room through a short hall and to a combined kitchen-and-living room that had a wall heater with a pilot light.
When the gas hit the pilot light, fire sparked and flashed throughout the room, said Moon.
“If it’s at the right concentration it will ignite rapidly and go back to the source — the source being where the male suspect was creating the drug,” Moon said.
Wilson suffered first- and second-degree burns on his head, both arms and his left foot, according to Moon. He was outside and alert when the first engine, stationed in nearby Roseland, arrived about six minutes after the fire was reported.
Firefighters had the small blaze under control within about 20 minutes.
Wilson was treated at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and discharged. Moon said he expected the man was transferred to the Bothin Burn Center at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco.
The explosion charred a living room window frame and the front door of the home. Burned debris lay in two heaps outside the door.