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LAPD investigating after body found in fire at 'clandestine' cannabis lab in Green Meadows

Los Angeles police are investigating an explosive and deadly fire at a Green Meadows industrial site early Saturday after a body was recovered amid signs of an illegal cannabis operation, fire and police officials said.

The body appeared to be that of a man, though officials have yet to confirm the person's identity, said Brian Humphrey, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman.

Officer Jader Chaves, an LAPD spokesman, said a second person was transported to a hospital in critical condition, though he had no additional information on the cause or nature of that person's injuries.

Chaves said the operation uncovered at the industrial building in the 800 block of East Manchester Avenue was being investigated as an "illegal butane honey oil clandestine lab."

"Butane honey oil" is a potent hash product made using highly flammable butane to heat marijuana extract. The process is considered volatile and extremely dangerous, and such underground operations are illegal despite the broader legalization of many cannabis products in California.

Humphrey said 113 firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour, after arriving on scene to the sound of explosions following a 911 call about 1:17 a.m.

Humphrey said the building was about 100 feet long by 50 feet wide and appeared abandoned from the outside — but that "didn't add up" given the explosiveness and strength of the fire.

As firefighters began trying to knock down the blaze, they realized that some sort of cannabis operation had been underway inside, Humphrey said. There were cannabis products, processing equipment and some sort of gas cylinders lying around, he said.

They fought to enter the building, then were pushed back as the fire grew and the building gave way, he said. The blaze initially threatened other surrounding buildings, but firefighters were able to contain it to the one building, Humphrey said.

After containing the fire and entering the site farther, firefighters found the body, he said. A team from the Los Angeles County coroner's office also responded to the scene and removed the body.

The hash oil produced in such labs has become increasingly popular, particularly with the rise of electronic cigarettes. But they have also caused many explosions in Southern California — landing hash "chefs" and other bystanders in burn centers with catastrophic injuries.

In just one example, an explosion at a lab in a commercial building near Knott's Berry Farm in Anaheim in 2022 injured at least four people, including two firefighters.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.