Denham Springs, LA – Apartment fire caused by man trying to manufacture methamphetamine limited by single sprinkler

A Denham Springs man is in custody at the Livingston Parish Detention Center after an attempt to manufacture methamphetamine in his apartment caused a minor blast and forced temporary evacuation of the complex late Wednesday.  The microwave blast caused a small fire in the apartment, but a sprinkler head prevented the blaze from spreading.

Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies and several other agencies were dispatched to the Parc Apartment Complex at the 31000 block of La. 16 around 3:30 p.m. following the blast and the discovery of “suspicious items.”  Deputies arrested Jeffrey Owens, 46, following the blast. The charges and the bond were not yet announced by the LPSO as of 10 p.m.

Detectives located items commonly used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, along with suspected molotov cocktails, but no active explosive devices were found, Sheriff Jason Ard said.  “Our initial investigation revealed that the suspect placed propane and other items in his microwave,” he said. “Once turned on, the items exploded.”  Detectives suspect that the manufacturing of drugs was the root motive.

Owens fled from the scene before deputies arrived, but he was later located and arrested in Walker. No injuries were reported. First-responders ordered the evacuation as a precautionary measure to search the complex for explosives.  Authorities gave residents the clearance to return around 7:30 p.m.  Owens allegedly used over-the-counter sudafedrene for the meth. Owens put the fuel in the microwave along with a set of with lithium batteries, said Joe Koczrowski, fire chief for Livingston Parish Fire Protection District No. 5.

“He thought he knew how to make meth and didn’t have even have the right materials to make it,” he said. “He had the Coleman fuel, the ammonia, the propane … everything he needed, except that he had the wrong batteries and wrong Sudafed.”  A Hazmat unit, along with officials from the ATF and Office of the State Fire Marshal, were summoned to the scene.  Owens allegedly had previous mental health issues, Koczrowski said.  “He’s not a terrorist and was not affiliated with anyone … he just had mental issues,” he said.

Owens’s apartment was in squalor at the time authorities arrived, with garbage spread throughout the apartment and canine fecal matter in numerous spots around the dwelling, Koczrowski said.

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