GALLAGHER DETAILS ONGOING EFFORTS TO COMBAT METH
Fire and arson detectives respond to two meth lab fires in one week
Tom Gallagher, State Fire Marshal, said that his office has responded to nearly 50 fires and explosions at methamphetamine or “meth” labs – including two in the past ten days. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is hosting a meeting with representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection to forge a stronger partnership for combating this growing menace to Florida communities.
“Almost every day, somewhere in Florida, law enforcement officers and first responders are being called to one of these dangerous labs,” said Gallagher, who is continuing to promote several legislative proposals he announced in June. “We need to rapidly expand our response to combat this evil drug.”
Gallagher is pushing for laws that would allow the immediate removal of children from a home being used as a meth lab and enhanced penalties for methamphetamine makers, particularly those whose labs injure first responders.
Detectives with the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations were called to a meth lab fire last week that severely damaged a Daytona home and a lab fire today in a Destin motel. Investigations are ongoing and arrests are pending.
Meanwhile, representatives from the DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement have toured the State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Forensic Fire and Explosives Analysis laboratory. The purpose of the visit is to review how both departments can work more closely on investigations into meth labs. While both departments have labs, the state fire and arson lab regularly analyzes evidence from fire and explosion scenes and is capable of identifying solvents and pre-cursor chemicals used in the manufacture of meth.
“The threat from clandestine meth labs is significant and the need for increased inter-agency cooperation is critical to meet the challenge of better protecting our communities,” Gallagher said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is hosting its fourth meth lab course for first responders. The intensive three-day program will be held Dec. 13-15 at the Jacksonville offices of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, located at 921 N. Davis Street, Building E. The training is free for all law enforcement and first responders. Additional programs are scheduled for Sarasota, Ft. Myers and Deland.
Exact figures on first responder injuries and deaths are hard to collect but according to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), injuries and deaths for first responders dealing with clandestine meth labs are on the rise. Methamphetamine-related events recorded by the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system increased from 184 in 2000 to 320 in June, 2004, totaling 1,791 events in the 16 states, including Florida. These events resulted in almost 960 injuries to police officers, firefighters and other first-responders. The most frequent injuries were respiratory irritation, eye irritation, and burns. Nine deaths were also reported.
In Florida, there has been a more than 1,000-percent increase in the number of meth labs seized since 2001.
For more information on the department’s “Fight Meth” strategy, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fightmeth.
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin. Anyone with information about this case or any incident of fire is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON).