Butane explosion shows dangers of hash oil labs

There were about 200 cans of butane

About 200 cans of butane gas were found in the basement of a home that was leveled by an explosion on July 24, 2017. (KOIN)


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A house where an explosion killed two people had about 200 cans of butane oil in the basement lab where the homeowner was making hash oil.

Investigators said the homeowner at 6432 N. Kerby had an illegal hash oil lab with enough gas in the air that something as small as static electricity could trigger an explosion.

Portland Police arson investigators said the process of making hash oil starts with cans of compressed butane gas, which is extracted into a larger canister through a hole punched in the can. That process is what releases the colorless, odorless gas into the air.

About 200 cans of butane gas were found in the basement of a home that was leveled by an explosion on July 24, 2017. (KOIN)

Arson investigator Joe Luiz said people don’t realize the gas is filling the room or still in the open cans. The homeowner likely thought what he was doing was safe.

“So what it does is it fills into an area that contains the lab and those butane gases build up and once an ignition source occurs, then the thing can blow,” Luiz said. “It’s a very volition explosion.”

Luiz said investigators don’t know exactly what ignited the Kerby explosion, but it could have been anything.

There is a high demand for hash oil and very few places are actually license to make it. That, and the number of stores now selling the small cans of butane gas by the case, has police concerned that something like Monday’s explosion could happen again somewhere else.

Monday’s explosion, which was felt for blocks, completely leveled the home and the destroyed one neighboring home and damaged another. It also caused down power lines and sent debris flying into nearby Peninsula Park.

The homeowner, 42-year-old Matthew McCrann died at the hospital after being found badly injured in a neighbor’s back yard. The other man who died was 68-year-old Richard Cisler, who was a contractor doing some remodeling at McCrann’s home.

“I’ve never seen [an explosion] this bad. This is a huge explosion. We’ve seen some very very devastating explosions and a lot of people injured, severely burnt during the process,” Luiz said. “This is the first death that I’m aware of in the city of Portland.”

About 200 cans of butane gas were found in the basement of a home that was leveled by an explosion on July 24, 2017. (KOIN)