Explosion may be linked to meth lab

Clay County firefighters, deputies at scene

Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:26:02 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 16 2012 04:32:34 PM EDT
MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -

An explosion and fire at a mobile home in Clay County may be linked to production of methamphetamine inside the abandoned home, according to the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators said that at 9:45 a.m., an explosion and fire at 1946 Open Woods Road was reported by residents in the Clay Hill area.

Windows of the vacant home were blown out.

"It knocked my cellphone out of my hands," nearby resident Rebecca Miller said of the blast.

Firefighters were able to put the fire out by about 11:30 a.m.

Detectives suspect that someone may have been inside the home cooking meth earlier in the day, but they said they cannot verify that until the investigation is completed. No one was found inside the home, which was without power and had boarded up windows.

IMAGES: Home devastated by explosion, fire

Investigators said meth and cook-related items were found in the home, leading to suspicions of prior meth production at the site. They said bottled accelerants were also found inside.

The State Fire Marshal was investigating the cause of the fire.

Detectives were interviewing neighbors to gather information about who may have been in the home prior to the fire.

Neighbors said they were told to stay inside after they smelled a strong odor following the explosion.

"It was no smell I've ever smelt in my life," Miller said. "It was like, if you're cleaning your bathroom, and the chemicals -- you know how it hurts your, like starts burning -- that's just what it was like."

Clay County's hazardous materials team was called to the home to clean up after the explosion.

Neighbors believe the explosion and fire could have been prevented. They said squatters have been seen coming in and out of the home for months.

"They reported these people staying in this house for weeks and weeks and weeks," resident Robin Pageant said. "Nobody's come out and checked it. Now it's blew."

"We did find some evidence of a meth lab, but again, there's a lot of debris and we have to make sure that indicators are there," Sheriff's Office Lt. Barry Abramowitz said.

Investigators said they're now focused on finding the people responsible for the explosion and are asking for the public's help.

"If they have any information regarding anybody that's been at this house or they know anything about how the fired occurred," Abramowitz said. "The information will be, of course, kept confidential, but we certainly can use some help as we investigate this crime."