Suspicious fire at 'clandestine' operation near Dashwood injured three men

News crews and RCMP descended on a house in Dashwood after a fire  sent three men to hospital. - Auren Ruvinsky photo
News crews and RCMP descended on a house in Dashwood after a fire sent three men to hospital.
— image credit: Auren Ruvinsky photo

An explosion in Dashwood caused by what police are calling "a clandestine, illicit, drug-production operation" sent three men to hospital Monday, including two who were in bad enough shape to be air-lifted to Royal Jubilee in Victoria.

Dashwood Fire Chief Nick Acciavatti who was the first on scene at the rural property on Nahmint Road, off Corcan Road, soon after the 1:45 p.m. call, at what sounded like a routine house fire.

Instead, Acciavatti said he found the three severely burnt men in the yard, unable to tell him much.

While B.C. Ambulance crews arrived to deal with the injured men, the fire crew — with mutual aid from Qualicum Beach and Coombs — did a quick interior attack looking for more people and they were able to extinguish the fire.

“Further investigation has revealed that the cause of the explosion and fire… was an explosion from an unstable enclosed environment,” Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said in a news release Wednesday morning.

“A clandestine, illicit drug production operation was found, in which butane was being used to extract and produce cannabis oil,” Foreman said. “The process of using butane to extract oil caused a very dangerous and unstable environment. A spark from an unknown source ultimately resulted in an explosion / fire when mixed with the butane fumes.”

Acciavatti said once they got inside, “we saw some things that we knew the police should look at,” and they pulled out.

He said that scenes like that are not that rare in the area, but that unknown situations or substances “can make us have to change our plan of attack, whenever we’re dealing with the unknown we have to put our safety first,” he said.

Neighbours spoke of an explosion before the smoke was seen, but Acciavatti said they didn’t see obvious signs of that.

Meanwhile, B.C. Ambulance crews called for an air lift and, with the help of the RCMP, shut the nearby Inland Highway for a helicopter landing.

“It was a challenging and complex call,” Acciavatti said, “but for the most part it went really well. It was inspiring to see the B.C. Ambulance members work. They were amazing.”

He said he has spoken briefly with his members, but he’s waiting for the dust to settle to sit down with other fire chiefs in the area and his members about how to deal with such complicated fires.

While all three men are still in hospital no other information was being released Wednesday morning, including their names or current condition.

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