Crime - Sacto 911

Explosion, fire lead to arrest of men suspected of running Nevada County drug lab

Richard Kuhn
Richard Kuhn Nevada County Sheriff’s Office

Two men have been arrested and charged with felony manufacturing of a controlled substance in connection with a Nevada County house fire on Saturday caused by the explosion of an illicit drug laboratory, a county sheriff’s sergeant said Sunday.

One of the men, David Schwab, who lives in the house with his wife and infant child, is also charged with felony child endangerment. His wife and baby were taken by ambulance to a hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries and released, according to Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Jakobs.

Richard Kuhn, who lives in a trailer on the same property, faces only the manufacturing charge, Jakobs said.

He said Nevada County sheriff’s detectives, who arrested and questioned the pair, continue to investigate the premises.

The men are in custody awaiting court appearances, Jakobs said. Bail for Schwab, 26, has been set at $535,000, for Kuhn, 34, $500,000, he said.

They are suspected of operating a honey oil lab in the house, Jakobs said. Honey oil, also known as hash oil, is a marijuana product made by separating resins from cannabis buds by chemical extraction and then converting it to a hardened or viscous mass, Jakobs said. He said the manufacture of honey oil is a dangerous process because highly combustible butane gas is used in the process.

“It’s not uncommon for these operations to blow up,” Jakobs said. “There have been these incidents all over the state.”

The Associated Press has reported that such occurrences have primarily been in West Coast states that permit medical marijuana.

Honey oil, which can be smoked, ingested or vaporized, is one of the most potent cannabis products because of its high level of psychoactive compound per its volume, depending on the mix of oils and compounds, according to a 2009 United Nations drug report.

The first report of Saturday’s fire came into the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office at 3:07 p.m., Jakobs said, and the Nevada County Consolidated Fire Department responded to the house at 12215 Poke Place, just outside of Nevada City.

By the time crews reached the scene, flames had engulfed the house, according to department Battalion Chief Joshua Sunde. He said the one-alarm blaze, which caused extensive damage to the house, was contained within an hour after the Nevada County fire crew was dispatched.

Besides firefighters from his own department, crews from Grass Valley, Nevada City and Cal Fire responded to the scene, Sunde said.

Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.