USA: Man suffers life-threatening injuries in hash oil explosion at Pittsfield mill building

PITTSFIELD — A man suffered life-threatening injuries last week, in an explosion that occurred as he was trying to extract hash oil from marijuana, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The man, whose name was not released, suffered serious burns in the Feb. 21 incident, which happened in a mill building on Keeler Street. The man was taken to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, and later was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Neither the explosion nor the victim’s injuries initially were reported to authorities when they occurred, according to a news release.

The State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit first was made aware of the incident Tuesday, through a report from the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System, which requires hospitals to notify the State Fire Marshal’s Office of burn injuries that extend over 5 percent or more of the victim’s body, according to the release. The reporting system is used to identify arsonists and burn injury trends.

A large number of marijuana plants and products were recovered from the mill building, along with melted plastic containers.

“Incidents like this are exactly why extraction processes using flammable gases and liquids are subject to safety regulations,” Pittsfield Fire Chief Thomas Sammons said in the release. “These are hazardous materials. Even storing them improperly carries a risk. Their untrained, unlicensed misuse can lead to property damage, serious injury, or death.”

“Cannabis extraction methods that use propane, butane, and similar substances without proper safety precautions are illegal because they’re extremely dangerous,” added State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “The gases used in these processes are highly flammable. If they accumulate in an enclosed area, the smallest spark can cause a devastating explosion.”

The incident is being investigating by the Pittsfield Fire Department, Pittsfield Police Department and the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office. They were assisted by the Lenox police and fire departments, Pittsfield building inspectors, hazmat technicians, as well as the State Police Bomb Squad and other state police units.

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