Meth lab explodes in Maple Ridge

Found after a fire started in the house on 224th Street

A no-occupancy notice has been posted on the house

A no-occupancy notice has been posted on the house

Police spent much of Sunday cleaning up after firefighters discovered a crystal meth lab in downtown Maple Ridge over the weekend.

Shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, neighbours in the Port Haney area reported a cloud of white smoke rising from a vent on a house on 224th Street, just past North Avenue, and chemical fumes that could be smelled down the block.

Firefighters found the homeowner standing outside claiming his hot water tank had exploded. After investigating, firefighters discovered a small lab, which was being used to manufacture crystal methamphetamine.

Ridge Meadows RCMP were called and a hazmat team was brought in to dismantle the lab. The next day was spent cleaning up the property, located next to Taggs medical marijuana dispensary.

According to RCMP Supt. Dave Walsh, the homeowner told firefighters he was going to take his dog for a walk and would come back but never showed up.

Police have seized chemicals and are awaiting test results to determine what types of chemicals were being used.

“The test results could take several weeks and we still haven’t located the homeowner yet,” Walsh said.

“Had we had someone in custody we would have certainly charged him with possession of a controlled substance but we’re going to have to wait for the lab results for confirmation.”

John McKenzie, who lives near the meth lab, said the area is known for drug dealing.

“Everything happened really quickly and was blocked off,” he said.

“They brought in all the hazmat guys. I went back out there to check it out around 6 p.m. on Sunday and they were still loading up chemicals.

“Apparently, this guy moved in about a month ago and had quite the operation going.”

McKenzie, still deciding whether he’ll run for council in November’s civic election, would like to see his neighbourhood cleaned up but believes the district should do more to help.

Maple Ridge council created the Port Haney Neighbourhood Change Project last year and recently announced spending of $15,000 for fixing problems and creating new projects to clean up the area.

However, McKenzie says the project is just a public relations exercise and has done little to make a difference in their neighbourhood, which is still plagued by prostitution and drugs.

“It hasn’t changed the drug dealing or got rid of this crystal meth lab,” McKenzie, who’s lobbied for years to get the area cleaned up, said.

“We fought for years to get things changed. It’s election time and perhaps it’s time to take stock.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin is disappointed with the discovery of a meth lab but he isn’t ready to give up on the neighbourhood.

“We were making great strides down there,” he said. “The neighbourhood group is moving forward. We’ve got to not let this distract us or discourage us from moving forward.”

The District of Maple Ridge will bill the homeowner for police and fire costs.