- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

OLD TOWN, Maine (AP) - A suspect in an explosion and fire at a methamphetamine lab in an apartment building has died and four others have been arrested, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said Friday.

All five were in the apartment Tuesday when highly flammable materials used to create meth exploded in the kitchen, causing some damage and starting a small fire, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

A couple who rented the apartment and two others were charged Thursday with operating a drug lab, police said. The fifth suspect was burned in the explosion and fire and was found dead Thursday in a house nearby, police said.

The body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta for an autopsy. The man’s name wasn’t released, pending notification of his family.

Police found shreds of clothes at the scene indicating someone had been hurt, McCausland said, but it wasn’t clear where the man had been during the 48-hour period.

Jeffrey King, who lives across the street from the apartment building, said he never noticed any problems at the building until he looked out the window Tuesday to see floodlights, police cars and a firetruck.

“You never know,” King said Friday. “Until I happened to look out the window, it never dawned on me that we had a meth lab in the neighborhood.”

Maine has been grappling with a heroin epidemic but also has been dealing with an increase in meth labs.

The number of law enforcement responses to meth labs and discarded meth-making materials more than doubled to 125 last year, compared to 56 in 2015. The number of meth labs investigated so far this year is lower than last year’s record pace.

McCausland said Tuesday’s fire could’ve been much worse if it had spread to other units in the apartment building.

“Trying to mix chemicals into this highly addictive drug can be very explosive and flammable,” he said. “That’s what we saw taking place.”

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This story has been corrected to show the fire happened in Old Town, not Orono.


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