Police confirm drug lab at scene of West Van house fire

Police have taken over the investigation into a fire at a Caulfeild area home after it turned out to be a large scale clandestine drug lab.

Around 4 a.m. on April 15, neighbours from the blocks around Birchfield Place in Caulfeild smelled noxious smoke and called 911.

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“It was a pretty big fire. The smoke smelled a little off. It smelled a little more noxious than you would think,” said Matt Clark, who lives nearby. West Vancouver Fire and Rescue pinpointed the source at the end of the cul-de-sac, kitty-corner to Caulfeild Elementary.

“They were met with heavy smoke and flame. They got signs right away that the house was vacant, like no furniture in the house, and some unusual things like big holes cut in the floor,” said assistant fire chief Matt Furlot. “There were strong signs of the house being a meth lab.”

Thankfully, the fire didn’t ignite any of the lab equipment in the basement or cause a hazardous material spill from any of the barrels they found inside. It took crews almost five hours to get the flames out.

“A very, very challenging attack, but the crews did very well. There were no injuries,” Furlot said. “If the lab is infringed with fire, there are vapours that can be very toxic and harmful and if that happened, we would be evacuating that immediate neighbourhood.”

So far, no arrests have been made, said Const. Kevin Goodmurphy, West Vancouver police spokesman, and investigators are still working to identify the suspects who had been running the lab.

West Vancouver police have called in the assistance of the RCMP’s Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response Team, and Health Canada, to determine exactly what was being made in the house.

“It was a large scale lab. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and is still being done to properly dismantle everything safely, categorize everything, send off samples [for testing] if necessary. There is a lot to be done here,” he said.

The home wasn’t on the police’s radar before the fire, but neighbours say it had been the centre of suspicious activity for several months since new tenants moved in, coming and going at odd times, never putting garbage and recycling out for collection at the curb. Those and any other suspicious warning signs should be reported, Furlot said.

Anyone with information about the lab or the people running it is asked to contact police.

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