Call to house fire turns into police investigation

Saturday, May 22, 2004

A fire at 1116 Cousin St. Friday afternoon aroused suspicion when firefighters discovered items at the fire's origin they suspected of being associated with methamphetamine production.

A 39-year-old woman who lives there with her husband and five children was injured slightly when the fire started in the basement of the home. She was treated at a hospital for burns and lacerations on her hands.

Her husband told fire investigators that his wife apparently knocked over a can of heating fuel in the basement. The vapors from the heating fuel, the type used in outdoor cooking stoves, flashed and caused items in the basement to catch fire.

Battalion chief Steve Niswonger said that after the fire was out and firefighters were looking for the fire's source, they found a large amount of chemicals and other materials associated with a meth lab.

The fire department turned the investigation over to the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force.

Sgt. Brenda Cone of the drug task force said that agency also found acetone and matchbooks with missing striker plates. Striker plates contain red phosphorus, which is used in meth production, she said. Investigators also found evidence of drug paraphernalia.

No one was arrested, and the incident remains under investigation.

The house sustained some damage, Niswonger said, but is probably repairable.

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