Responding to an anonymous telephone call about chemical fumes coming from a home, Santee Fire Department and sheriff's deputies found ether and the makings of a methamphetamine lab in the 8300 block of Rumson Drive in Santee early Tuesday morning, according to Deputy John Scheck.
Deputies discovered a five-gallon container of ether in a canyon behind the house, and called the county's Hazardous Materials Response Team and the Narcotics Task Force. Later, a quart jar of a cloudy liquid and an undetermined amount of hydrogen chloride were found in a locked bedroom of the house. Laboratory equipment also was found.
"The chemical equipment that was located indicated that the people were in some process of making a methamphetamine lab," Scheck said. "It's not determined what stage they were in. It wasn't a complete lab to our knowledge."
Sixteen homes and a day-care center were evacuated as a precautionary measure about 10 a.m. Residents were allowed to return to their homes in the afternoon after the dangerous chemicals were removed.
Deputies did not arrest any of the six adults at the home where the chemicals were found on drug charges, but three were arrested for other offenses.
Louis Ruiz, 24, was arrested on three outstanding warrants. His brother, David, 20, was arrested for possession of nunchucks, a chain-like weapon. Rikki Losccao, 18, was arrested for obstructing a peace officer when she tried to go back into the house after having been removed by deputies.
An investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is pending.