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Suspected Drug Lab Found in Van Nuys : Narcotics: Police trailing a smoke cloud discover chemicals and equipment. One woman is arrested.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Van Nuys woman was arrested Monday after Los Angeles police officers tracing an acrid-smelling smoke cloud stumbled on a suspected drug lab in a garage, authorities said.

Police arrested Bridgette O’Donnell, 27, an occupant of the house in the 6400 block of North Woodley Avenue, on suspicion of conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance, according to Sgt. Bob Cedillos.

She was being held at the police department’s Van Nuys jail in lieu of $51,000 bail, said Cedillos of the Police Department’s Narcotics Division.

Five firefighters were taken to a local hospital for observation after coming in contact with the smoke, said Capt. Robert Rose of the Los Angeles Fire Department. The firefighters did not appear to have been injured and were taken to the hospital only as a precaution, he said.

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Inside the house and garage, officers found 35 gallons of methamphetamine oil, a drug precursor, according to Lt. Richard Szabo. He estimated the street value of the finished drugs at about $3.2 million.

Investigators said the smoke was probably caused by chemicals reacting in the garage.

Cedillos said two officers from the Police Department’s Van Nuys division called the Los Angeles Fire Department and knocked on the door of the house after they saw smoke drifting across Woodley Avenue in front of the house about 4:45 a.m.

The officers thought a fire had started in the garage, Cedillos said.

O’Donnell answered the door and tried to stall the officers, Cedillos said.

While waiting, the officers saw O’Donnell and another woman try to hide a large amount of laboratory equipment, Cedillos said. “They really didn’t want to let the officers see what they had inside there, but the officers saw it right away,” he said.

Both women then ran from the house, but the officers caught O’Donnell. The other woman escaped, Cedillos said.

Cedillos said other arrests were possible.

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