An RCMP officer walks south on Nowell Street on May 3, 2019 by Target Steel and Sea Container, which was destroyed by fire a day before. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

RCMP confirm dramatic fire in downtown Chilliwack was drug lab

Public kept away from area for significant time after May 2 blaze because of volatile chemicals

Police are now confirming a dramatic fire in an industrial building two weeks ago on Fourth Avenue was connected to a drug lab.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Vrolyk said Wednesday that he could confirm chemicals were removed from the destroyed building on the corner of Nowell Street, and an investigation is now being considered under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The massive fire on May 2 started at around 10:30 a.m. in the building on the property that is adjacent to residential homes on both Nowell and Third Avenue. Witnesses report hearing a large explosion before the fire started and several explosions could be heard during the blaze. Smoke could be seen across the city as Chilliwack Fire Department crews knocked the fire down, and were able to protect nearby houses.

• READ MORE: UPDATE w/ VIDEO: Explosions heard during dramatic blaze at Chilliwack industrial building

Dozens of people were out on the streets watching the fire that day, and Mounties cordoned off a wide area keeping people away.

“The main reason we had it blocked off for so long was because of the volatile nature of the chemicals,” Vrolyk said.

He could not confirm whether the drug lab in the building was for making crystal meth or MDMA (Ecstasy) or some other illicit material, just that chemicals were found that are used to make synthetic drugs.

The business at the location is Target Steel and Sea Container, but several people suggested there was another business in operation in the building, something Vrolyk could not confirm.

Speculation that the fire was a drug lab was immediate as officers in hazmat suits entered the rubble at least twice, and several officers from the drug squad were on scene investigating.

On the day of the fire there was a report that a vehicle was involved, a detail later said to be inaccurate, according to authorities. And while Vrolyk confirmed there was no vehicle involved in the explosion and the cause is not linked to a vehicle, police are looking into a witness report from before the fire.

“We are investigating reports that a vehicle may have left the scene at the time or shortly after the explosion,” Vrolyk said.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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Neighbours watch as Chilliwack Fire Department crews battle an industrial building at the corner of Nowell Street and Fourth Avenue that started at around 11 a.m. on May 2, 2019. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

One day later, several RCMP officers were on the scene doing preliminary investigation outside the building destroyed by fire May 2, 2019. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

An RCMP officer takes photos on May 3, 2019 outside a building that was the scene of a dramatic fire on Nowell and Fourth in Chilliwack on May 2. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

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