Firefighters Locate Another Meth Lab

From Times Staff Reports

After a motorist reported a cloud of smoke drifting across a Santa Ana street early Saturday morning, firefighters discovered a leaking 5-foot cylinder of hydrogen chloride, a hazardous chemical used in the production of methamphetamine.

Authorities immediately cordoned off a six-block area and evacuated about 60 people from residences in the 1900 block of West 17th Street, where investigators later discovered a meth lab. No one was injured, and residents were allowed to return to their homes Saturday afternoon.

"This was a lab where the final part of the process of making meth took place," said William Lackey, a Fire Department spokesman.

The gas cloud was reported about 3:30 a.m. Firefighters arriving at the scene saw a vapor cloud and traced the gas to a cylinder behind a garage of a duplex.

Lackey said such leaks are becoming more common and are leading officials to an increasing number of labs in Orange County. Officials said they find labs about once a month.

Officials said they will continue to investigate the lab, but Lackey said "chances are slim" officials will catch the drug makers.

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