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March 12, 2014

Hash-oil explosion in Merced injures 1, police say

A 23-year-old Merced man suffered minor burns Wednesday night when his apparent hash-oil cooking project exploded, rocking the neighborhood, less than a block away from the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.

A Merced man was arrested Wednesday night after his apparent hash-oil cooking project exploded, rocking the neighborhood, a block away from the Merced County Sheriff’s Department and the Merced Police Department.

Michael Ward, 23, was taken to an area hospital for treatment, Sgt. Brian Rodriguez said.

“It rattled my whole house, I thought it was a sonic boom,” said neighbor Kimberly DeWelt.

The man was cooking marijuana into hash oil, also known as “honey oil,” around 7:50 p.m. at his home in the 800 block of West 21st Street when it exploded, leaving burns on his hands and arms, the Merced Police Department said.

No other injuries were reported.

A woman who also lives at the residence declined comment. Officers were still questioning her late Wednesday.

“It’s still an ongoing investigation. We’ll be speaking with everybody,” Rodriguez said.

Merced City Fire Department Battalion Chief Don Roe said the explosion occurred in a laundry area at the back of the house and caused a small fire that was quickly extinguished by the 16  city firefighters who responded to the scene.

Roe said the incident was treated as a hazardous material accident. He said firefighters closed the street and cleared neighboring homes on either side of the house.

The explosion appeared to have knocked out the home’s windows. Chunks of shattered glass and window-frame pieces were strewn about the front lawn and driveway.

“There was structural damage to the rear of the house, making it unsafe to occupy now,” Roe said.

Neighbors initially believed a water heater had exploded at the home.

“I was watching TV and there was a huge ‘boom,’ real loud. I thought it had to be like a shotgun or something like that,” neighbor Yvette Smith said.

DeWelt said news of the marijuana-related explosion was surprising, especially in a neighborhood close to the sheriff and police departments that is known as relatively quiet and peaceful.

“The kids that live there are always really nice, quiet,” DeWelt said. “I never smelled any (marijuana) around here before.”

Burnt marijuana odor hung heavy in the air for more than an hour after the explosion.

“It’s surprising to have it so strong here,” DeWelt said. “It’s really surprising.”

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