WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) — Butane gas from a hash-oil operation caused an explosion that left two men critically burned and another missing and forced dozens to evacuate at a San Francisco Bay Area apartment complex, police said.
"We're investigating a drug-extraction lab that used various chemicals," Lt. Tom Cashion told the Contra Costa Times.
Lori Meyers, a witness who works in an office building about a quarter mile away, said she felt a jolt.
"A bunch of people thought it was an earthquake. But it was a harder and faster hit than that," she said. "To me, it felt like a car hit the building."
Bob Grossman, who lives nearby, said he arrived at the scene to find flames 20 to 30 feet in the air.
"The blast was incredible," he told KNTV. "I mean it shook our windows, knocked over a little furniture. It was an incredible impact."
Grossman said the two men came running bloody from the scene with their skin peeling off.
They were airlifted to a hospital, and a third person believed to be at the scene remained unaccounted for, Contra Costa Fire Capt. Kent Kirby said.
Fire crews were called to the four-unit complex in Walnut Creek around 10 a.m. and had the blaze mostly extinguished within an hour, but not before part of the building collapsed, Kirby said.
Part of the building's top floor was missing, and debris was strewn all around.
Crews turned off gas and electric service to the torched apartment complex and were standing by in case power to other properties had to be shut off, said Nicole Liebelt, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman.