9 Dec 2012

Police escape burning building after drug raid

10:01 pm on 9 December 2012

Police officers on a drug raid in Bay of Plenty had to hurriedly get out of an industrial building housing a suspected methamphetamine laboratory on Sunday when it exploded in flames.

Tauranga officers and the Fire Service went to the Katikati workshop on a drug warrant at 11.30am.

Officers were inside when the building burst into flames but managed to get themselves and the occupants out safely.

Police called in the Fire Service when they raided the building.

The Fire Service moved swiftly from a decontamination role to fire fighting during the incident.

The Fire Service says there were explosions before the fire.

Six engines were needed to bring the blaze under control, with diggers demolishing the building to prevent the fire from spreading.

It says the surrounding residential area was evacuated as a precaution.

Bay of Plenty coast fire area assistant manager Geoff Purcell says it's standard practice for the police to have the service there when they're carrying out warrants on suspected drug labs.

"Normally at these incidents we just are there for a decontamination role but because the building caught fire our crews were involved in the initial fire attack, once the fire was pretty much under control we could revert back and carry out the decontamination role."

Mr Purcell says there was a dangerous cocktail of chemicals present so for the sake of safety and preservation of the evidence firefighters didn't enter the building.

"It was effectively an external attack on the fire knowing the use of the building and due to chemicals and the police operation, so we weren't going to go anywhere near it until the police confirmed it was safe to do so."

Mr Purcell says there were no injuries and the police officers were decontaminated as a precaution.

Police say two men and a woman are helping them with their inquiries.