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Drug oil production tied to fire

A downtown Grass Valley house fire that was once believed to have been an accident was most likely caused by chemicals used to extract “honey oil” – or hashish oil – authorities said Wednesday.

A 23-year-old woman who was burned in the blaze, which charred the home on the 100 block of Alta St., is now the main suspect in the police investigation, Police Capt. Greg Hart said Wednesday.

“We eliminated the possibility of what they at first said – that the heater blew up,” Grass Valley Fire Chief Hank Weston said. “The heater worked fine.”



No arrests have yet been made in the investigation, which has been sent to the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office for review.

The fire occurred at 12:15 p.m. on Dec. 7, and the damage to the home was estimated at $50,000.




The house was a home to a 49-year-old woman, along with her 23-year-old daughter and two other children. .

At the time of the fire, the mother reportedly said the water heater at the home might have exploded.

“The mother said she was taking a shower,” Weston said. “She said she heard an explosion; she walked out and saw her daughter with her skirt on fire.”

Hart said that so far, the mother is only a witness, not a suspect, in the alleged drug operation and explosion. The two younger children were also not involved, he said.

But that’s not to say the residents weren’t aware of the procedure, Weston said.

“It’s a small house – it’s hard to believe everyone didn’t know what was going on there,” Weston said.

The 23-year-old was taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital with burns to her hands, neck and face.

During a search of the home, fire investigators found a pile of marijuana stems and materials that likely had been used to manufacture “honey oil,” a type of hashish oil, Weston said.

The explosion was most likely caused by chemicals, such as butane, that are used in the process, he said.

“Everything led us to believe that is what happened,” Weston said. “It was not accidental.”

The investigation into the fire is still ongoing, according to law enforcement authorities, and a report has been sent to the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office for review of possible criminal charges.

What is ‘honey oil’?

Hash oil or honey oil is produced by extracting the part of the drug that gets marijuana users high. A solvent such as butane is used to extract the oil. The resulting drug is a viscous liquid ranging from amber to dark brown in color. In terms of its psychoactive effect, a drop or two of this liquid on a cigarette is equal to a single “joint” of marijuana.

Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration


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