News

Apartment fire cause is meth lab; children at home suffer no injuries

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

The upper level of an Enumclaw apartment was gutted by fire last week, a bad situation made worse when authorities determined the blaze erupted as the renter was in the final phase of manufacturing methamphetamine.

The fire broke out shortly before 3 a.m. Dec. 19 at the Rainier Glen apartment complex, just south of state Route 410 off Watson Street.

At the time, the two-story unit was occupied by a woman, her three children and an overnight male guest. All were taken to Enumclaw Regional Hospital, but only the woman sustained injuries; she received second-degree burns to her hands.

A press release issued by the Enumclaw Police Department noted there were “suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire,” which quickly led to a joint investigation between Enumclaw police and Enumclaw Fire/District 28.

“It was determined that the fire was caused in the end stage of manufacturing methamphetamine,” the press release noted.

Later that morning, a crew from the state's Department of Ecology checked the scene, due to the hazards often resulting from meth production.

The woman renting the unit was arrested. Her male guest was not charged. Due to the nature of the incident, authorities notified Child Protective Services, which took the three children - ages 17, 16 and 5 - into protective custody.

Commander Eric Sortland of the Enumclaw Police Department said a quick response by the fire department prevented a possible disaster.

“They arguably saved the lives of a dozen people,” he said, noting that the blaze was confined to a single unit.

One firefighter was briefly hospitalized due to smoke inhalation.

The downstairs level of the apartment suffered only water damage, but among the casualties were wrapped Christmas presents intended for the minors living there. Members of the police and fire departments quickly made arrangements to replace the gifts, Sortland said, “so the kids don't suffer.”

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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