Methamphetamine Labs Sprouting


Mar 11, 2001
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Monday May 14 2:17 AM ET
Methamphetamine Labs Sprouting

By REBECCA COOK, Associated Press Writer

ASHFORD, Wash. (AP) - In the Tahoma State Forest in the shadow of Mount Ranier, hikers and hunters have been displaced by men in moon suits searching for contamination from methamphetamine labs and roping off sickly brown ``dead zones'' where meth-making's poisonous byproducts were dumped.

It's part of what authorities say is a national trend: As police crack down on methamphetamine in cities and towns, makers of the highly addictive drug are moving to vast, lightly patrolled state and federal forests to set up their labs. The number of busted meth labs increased tenfold over the past year in Washington state alone.

``It poses a danger to anyone out there in the woods,'' said forester Bob Brown of the Washington Department of Natural Resources. ``Somebody could get killed or injured very badly by this stuff.''

The simplicity of making meth - cheap to produce, with a potent high - has fueled its popularity. When users eat, inject or snort meth it makes them feel euphoric, energized and powerful. Addicts can go days without sleep. But the drug's downsides strike quickly: irritability, paranoia, aggression and violence.

The Tahoma forest was closed last month until at least June 10 after authorities discovered a meth lab including open containers of solution with a pH of 14 - corrosive enough to burn flesh off bones. A blast of anhydrous ammonia, a meth ingredient that leaches moisture from whatever it touches, could ``take your eyeball and shrink it down to the size of a raisin,'' says Ashford Fire Chief Jim Gregory.

Closing an entire forest for a meth lab cleanup was a first in Washington, and no national forest has ever been shut down because of meth, said Kim Thorsen, deputy director for law enforcement and investigation at the Forest Service. State investigators said it was necessary because the remnants were spread over about 100 acres and they needed to make sure they had found and cleared everything.

Despite thin resources - seven investigators for 2.1 million acres of forest - Washington authorities have been finding a lot more meth.

From 1996 to 1999, foresters found about two active meth labs per year on state forest land, according to DNR environmental specialist Phil Clark. In the past year, they've found 20.

Nationally, Thorsen said, the U.S. Forest Service found 107 meth labs and dump sites in national forests in 1999. Last year they found 488, a 356 percent increase.

``There are a lot of resources focused on cities and towns. Law enforcement drives those folks into rural areas, where there are fewer cops and they're not as easily detected,'' Thorsen said.

At the Mark Twain forest, the biggest trouble spot, Forest Service special agent Mike Green said the agency just hired two more agents in response to the meth problem.

``We're trying to play catch-up,'' he said.

The Washington State Patrol describes the Tahoma meth lab as medium-sized, capable of producing about two pounds of meth a day, worth up to $16,000 on the street. The costs of cleaning it up are still mounting. A much smaller operation found last year at a nearby lake cost the state $40,000.

Vast, uninhabited acres have always attracted illegal activity, from moonshiners to marijuana growers. But officials say the meth cookers - who often sample their products - are a new breed.

``They're less grounded mentally. They can go off at any second,'' said Dennis Heryford, chief investigator for DNR law enforcement. Marijuana growers are likely to take off when discovered, he said, while meth cookers often come out shooting.

Likewise, marijuana plants are simple to eradicate - just pull them up by the roots. Getting rid of a meth lab is dangerous and expensive. Meth cookers dump battery acid, solvents and other toxic materials into rivers or the ground. Much of the waste is highly flammable and explosive - another danger anticipated for the summer forest fire season.

Washington foresters, who don't carry weapons, have been trained on how to recognize the signs of a meth lab and what to do when they find one. In California, every state firefighter knows how to respond to a fire caused by or near a suspected meth lab.

``A lot of our training is starting to emphasize more and more that we have a good chance of running into drugs and especially these methamphetamine labs because they're so easy to set up,'' said Randy Hancock, president of the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association and a game warden in Colorado.


Well-known member
Mar 31, 2001
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These clowns will set up labs anywhere.We definitly have to watch for those things fighting wildland fires,but they will make it their cars,anywhere,so do be careful.


It is sick and wrong what they are doing to our forests let alone having to close it so you can't go to your favorite pic-nic site.So much for Clintons crack down on drugs{war on drugs}I live in the sticks and hope it doesn't come here.The violence and drugs in the small town we were from is why we moved here!!!
I hope something changes,just think these people are breeding,imagine what their kids will be like?

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