USA– Investigators are looking for suspects connected to a methamphetamine lab that may have caused the fire on Garcon Point that closed a section of Interstate 10 earlier this week.
Agents from the Florida Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement scoured the scene of the fire’s origin and found evidence linked to the one-pot or “shake and bake” method of making meth, said Joe Zwierzchowski, wildfire mitigation specialist with the Florida Forest Service.
A call to the Florida Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement in Milton was not returned Friday. “You can tell by the remaining leaves on a burned tree which direction the fire came from,” Zwierzchowski said. “You can tell how hot it was and how fast it moved through by what is left on the ground. Basically, you can backtrack from there.”
That pattern led to an area about 20 yards off the shoreline of Escambia Bay, just south of Interstate 10.
“All the pieces were there, and all the pieces were exactly where the fire started.” There, investigators found a 20-ounce beverage bottle and other materials used to make meth, including packages of cold medicine pills, Zwierzchowski said. The one-pot method of making meth requires no fire but the chemical reactions involved can result in an explosion, he said. Zwierzchowski is not aware of any previous wildfires being caused by a meth lab locally.
“I know it has happened in other places in Florida,” he said. “It is uncommon, but, unfortunately, it is starting to become more common. As this method gains in popularity, we are starting to see more of this.” The fire began Tuesday morning along Escambia Bay just south of I-10 on Garcon Point and spread to an island north of the highway. Smoke closed the interstate between Scenic Highway in Pensacola and Avalon Boulevard in Milton from midday Tuesday to early Wednesday.
Updated figures calculated through GPS mapping show the fire burned 108 acres.