Fire call reveals suburban ecstasy lab

By str8ballin · Jul 19, 2004 · ·
  1. str8ballin
    Nothing looked out of place at the two-storey house at 412 Manhattan Dr. in Markham. Flowers planted outside gave the home a lived-in look and the lawn was manicured. But nothing was normal about this house.

    When a passing resident notified the fire department of an unusual amount of smoke coming from the chimney on Saturday, firefighters found $10 million worth of industrial chemicals used to make drugs such as ecstasy.

    Reports say this was the biggest ecstasy bust in North America.

    Today police are looking for an unknown number of suspects now that the house, in the 16th Avenue and McCowan Rd. area, is officially a crime scene with Health Canada officials there to decontaminate it. Detectives can't step foot inside until all of the hazardous toxins are removed.

    Even the residents at the two adjoining houses have been evacuated.

    Reports are the house was purchased a few weeks ago for up to $400,000 in cash.

    Police are trying to find the homeowners.

    It may take up to a week to clear the home of the chemicals so an investigation can continue.

    As with any chemical, you have to treat it with care or there could be a major explosion," said Sergeant Joanne Waite of York Region police. "These industrial-grade chemicals are very highly flammable."

    Investigators found various equipment and chemicals used to make the drug ecstasy.

    Substantial amounts of the chemicals, which include ethanol and dextromethorphan, were also found scattered within the house, police said.

    This isn't the first time York police have made a major ecstasy drug bust.

    Four years ago this month, York Region police seized millions of dollars worth of the chemicals used to produce ecstasy from a Markham home.

    It was considered to be the largest illicit-drug laboratory bust in Canadian history.

    But Waite says while ecstasy is a common illicit drug in York Region, it's unusual to find drug labs and manufacturing operations in the region.

    "We haven't come across too many labs in York Region recently," Waite said.

    "So this is a surprise."

    York Region is becoming a burgeoning area for marijuana grow houses and ecstasy labs. But officials say ecstasy labs are even harder to detect because the homes don't have to be set up with vast amounts of hydroponic equipment.

    Police say that the suspects are becoming more sophisticated in their operations, even going as far as to hire out families with children to live in the houses so as not to tip off the public.

    However, police say that the public should be aware of the unusual aspects of smoke coming from the chimney in the summertime and to notice if there is a lot of traffic, especially cargo vans, coming in and leaving at all hours.

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  1. maxmoe
    Thats a nice neighbourhood. If they stuck to blowing smoke at night time they might have got away with it.
  2. Alfa

    'There Was Extreme Potential For Disaster,' Police Discover

    Value Of Ecstasy Bust Could Climb As Inventory Continues

    The man who answered the door of the smoky Markham home shooed away a
    neighbour who feared the place was on fire. "We're cooking," he said, then
    slammed the door.

    They were cooking, all right. Firefighters who arrived moments later found
    a sophisticated illicit laboratory that had cooked up more than $10 million
    of the psychedelic drug ecstasy in upstairs bedrooms.

    A man and a young child fled out the back door and disappeared over a fence
    just a block from a local police station.

    Police, firefighters and Health Canada chemists were to return today for a
    fourth day of ripping apart the lab and examining toxic chemicals used in
    the drug-making process. It is believed to be the largest ecstasy seizure
    in Canada, if not North America.

    "It's just huge," said Detective Rob Cullen of the York Region police
    intelligence unit.

    "And it's filled with some particularly nasty stuff."

    In addition to more than 50 kilograms of finished ecstasy powder and more
    than 10 kilograms of packaged marijuana, police have found a witches' brew
    of caustic chemicals.

    If the overheated chemical reaction that filled the house with smoke early
    Saturday morning had been allowed to develop unchecked, it would have
    exploded and levelled the two-storey house, Cullen said.

    "There was extreme potential for disaster," he said, including a toxic
    cloud that could have poisoned a wide area of the neighbourhood near
    McCowan Rd. and 16th Ave.

    The ecstasy lab wasn't the only bust on the block. Firefighters who went
    next door to warn neighbours of the danger found an abandoned marijuana
    grow operation still rigged with high-powered lights and equipment.

    All of which was news to Carl Parsons, the neighbour on the other side.

    "Nothing ever happens here," he said. "This is a peaceful neighbourhood and
    they just seemed like normal houses."

    Investigators donned protective suits and masks yesterday to enter the drug
    den and dismantle the lab. They hauled out finished drug powder and huge
    glass flasks that could hold up to 100 litres of liquid.

    Cullen said drug makers mix one-tenth of a gram of ecstasy powder with
    binders and fillers to make pills, which often sell for $20 and as much as
    $40. He said a continuing chemical inventory of the house could "blow that
    50-kilo weight even higher" and increase the value of the seized drugs even
  3. Alfa

    Firefighters want notification of chemicals in homes

    Markham firefighters have become increasingly concerned for their safety
    after stumbling upon two potentially dangerous drug labs in the span of a
    few days.

    Now they're asking York Regional Police to let them know if a house is
    suspected to be a marijuana grow operation or ecstasy lab before they
    respond to calls.

    "Without jeopardizing any ongoing investigations, we're just hoping our
    firefighters can be made aware if police suspect a house is involved in drug
    manufacturing," Markham Professional Firefighters Association president John
    Brassard said.

    "There is a higher level of danger at these homes and if we know that going
    in, it changes everything in how we handle a call."

    Markham firefighters were the first to find a $10-million ecstasy lab filled
    with dangerous chemicals in the garage of a Manhattan Drive home while
    responding to a report of smoke Saturday.

    A second ecstasy lab was discovered Tuesday by Markham firefighters
    responding to small kitchen fire on Brunswick Street in the Kennedy Road and
    16th Avenue area.

    Firefighters extinguished that blaze and, before clearing the scene,
    routinely searched each room in the house with the help of police to ensure
    no further danger existed.

    A man who was found sleeping in an upstairs bedroom denied officers entry to
    a locked cold-storage room before fleeing the home.

    When the door to the storage area was opened, police found a pill press and
    ecstasy tablets.

    Firefighters receive print-outs about fire locations from their dispatch
    office before responding to calls.

    The print-outs detail potential dangers at a site, including if a large
    amount of chemicals or other combustible materials are stored in the area.

    The chemicals used in the production of ecstasy can be highly combustible
    and could create a large scale explosion, according to Det.-Sgt. Karen
    Noakes of the drugs and vice squad.

    All the more reason why firefighters need to know if police have a home
    under surveillance as a suspected drug manufacturing lab before they go in,
    Mr. Brassard said.

    "(An explosion at the Manhattan Drive ecstasy lab) would have wiped out the
    entire first responding crew of 13 firefighters," Mr. Brassard said.

    "We want to ensure our firefighters are kept safe."

    However, Det.-Sgt. Noakes, who said the Manhattan lab wasn't under
    surveillance until firefighters found it, isn't sure full disclosure is

    "Who and what we are investigating is highly confidential information," she

    "But, that said, we'd never knowingly put anybody at risk."

    Drugs and vice officers would be willing to discuss the possibility of
    sharing information to help keep firefighters safe, but Det.-Sgt. Noakes
    said a complete open-book policy is unlikely.

    "We cannot identify a home as a grow op or an ecstasy lab until we go in
    there and conduct an investigation," she said.

    "And it wouldn't be fair to share information before then. It's not as if we
    have the information and we're not sharing it."
  4. Alfa

    Pills Found In Basement After 911 Call For Fire

    No Arrests In Sunday's $10 Million Drug Seizure

    York Region police and firefighters discovered an ecstasy operation at
    a home in Markham yesterday, about a kilometre from a house where
    chemicals and drugs worth $10 million were seized Sunday.

    According to York Region police, a resident on Brunswick Ave., near
    Kennedy Rd. and Major MacKenzie Dr. E., called 911 about 9:30 a.m. to
    report smoke coming from another house on the street. When
    firefighters arrived they found a fire in the kitchen and a man asleep
    in an upstairs bedroom, said Detective Don Cardwell of York police.

    Cardwell said the fire was unrelated to drug production.

    The firefighters then searched the rest of the house and found a
    locked storage room in the basement, police said. Firefighters asked
    the man to open the room, but he repeatedly refused, police said.
    Finally, they broke into the room and found a pill press and what
    Cardwell described as "a large quantity" of ecstasy pills.

    When the drugs were discovered, the man ran out of the house, wearing
    only a T-shirt, boxer shorts and flip-flops, police said. He scurried
    through some neighbouring yards, managing to elude police and police
    dogs. Police were unable to determine immediately how many pills were
    found, how much the drugs were worth or who owned the house. By late
    yesterday afternoon, they were still waiting for a warrant to search
    the house. In Sunday's bust, on Manhattan Dr. near 16th Ave. and
    McCowan Rd., police also found drugs and chemicals after fire crews
    responded to reports of a fire at the house. But Cardwell pointed out
    that the first house contained a lab that processed the raw materials
    of ecstasy, while the house on Brunswick Ave. held the actual ecstasy
    pills and the tools used to make them.

    "We believe it might be the next stage of the (drug-manufacturing)
    process," Cardwell said. "There is a possibility that the two
    (operations) are linked, but we're not sure yet. It'll probably take
    days before we have any findings."

    Francesca Bufardeci lives three doors away from the house where the
    drugs were discovered. She saw the man run from the house but says the
    people who live there don't socialize much.

    "They were never to be seen," she said. "Every once in a while I'll
    see an old lady (outside). Today was the first day I've ever seen the
    guy come out."

    Police described the suspect as 35-40 years old, 5-foot-7 and chubby
    with short black hair. No arrests have been made in Sunday's drug find.
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