A fire that injured a Nazareth man on Saturday was sparked by an explosion of chemicals he was mixing to make methamphetamine, Nazareth police said.
Chief Thomas Trachta said Clay Rutt, 54, of 121 S. Main St., was mixing chemicals in a bottle at the time of the explosion.
Fire officials said Rutt was severely injured and hospitalized for treatment.
He was listed in critical condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest this morning.
Nazareth police Detective Frederick Lahovski said Rutt had been under investigation for some time by police, who suspected him of manufacturing methamphetamine.
But, Lahovski said police were not able to gather sufficient evidence to arrest Rutt until the explosion.
Lahovski said Rutt had a "substantial operation" established in his apartment.
The explosion happened about 10 p.m. Saturday. Trachta said it was bad enough to injure Rutt, but small enough to cause only minor damage to his apartment.
Local and state emergency crews were summoned after firefighters responding to the fire discovered the meth lab.
The building was partially evacuated and South Main Street was shut down, Trachta said.
Chemists with the Pennsylvania State Police deemed the area safe several hours after the fire. Police applied for a search warrant, and criminal charges against Rutt are pending, Trachta said.
Trachta said there was no danger to the public during the incident.
A witness told police that following the explosion, a burning plastic bottle was thrown from Rutt's apartment window, police records say. The bottle had white residue inside, police allege.
Police records show that inside the apartment there were empty packages of Sudafed, multiple lithium batteries cut in half, propane fuel, paint thinner, chemical drain cleaner and other materials used to make methamphetamine.
Trachta said all of the items collected were taken to the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, for testing.
Monday, October 25, 2010
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