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Emergency personnel prepare one of the burn victims for transfer to Rogue Valley Medical Center. - Jamie Lusch

Dangerous combination sparks house fire

Mail Tribune

Two people allegedly attempting to make hashish in a west Medford bathroom were injured when the room erupted in flames, authorities said.

Clayton Morgan, 27, and a 23-year-old woman suffered burns in the fire, which started at about 9:05 a.m. Saturday in the downstairs unit at 655 Pine St. Both were taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center for treatment.

Medford Fire Inspector Derek Zwagerman said Morgan was making hashish in his bathtub when an electric heater kicked on and ignited the butane gas he was using to heat the drug.

Morgan's girlfriend, Nicole Muhlnickel, 27, was home with her two daughters, ages 1 and 6, when the fire started, but the three were able to escape the burning home unharmed. Muhlnickel said she rented the bottom floor of the two-story home about a month ago and only met the woman who was in the bathroom with Morgan the day before.

Muhlnickel said after the butane ignited in the bathroom, Morgan and the woman came out screaming with their hair and clothes on fire. Morgan yelled for everyone to get out of the house, Muhlnickel said.

Muhlnickel said she had no fire extinguisher and she couldn't find her phone to call 9-1-1, so she ran to the neighbors' houses for help.

When she saw black smoke billowing out her front door, she ran back inside to rescue her baby, she said, adding Morgan was too badly burned to pick up the child himself.

Muhlnickel's 6-year-old daughter was able to escape and was safe at a neighbor's home when police and fire crews arrived.

"I don't know what to do," Muhlnickel said as fire crews battled the blaze. "You never think your house is going to catch on fire."

The name of the woman in the bathroom with Morgan was unavailable Saturday.

Three people renting the top floor of the home escaped harm after Muhlnickel alerted them to the fire, Zwagerman said.

Medford Fire-Rescue responded with 19 personnel to the scene, according to a press release. The first unit arrived within four minutes. The fire was contained to the first floor with smoke damage extending to the second floor. The fire was under control within seven minutes, the release said.

Sgt. Tom Ianieri of Medford police said Morgan was cited on felony charges of third-degree assault and manufacturing of a controlled substance, reckless burning, reckless endangering and criminal mischief. Morgan was still being treated for his injuries when police cited him, so he is free until his court date, Ianieri said.

An RVMC spokesman said Morgan was released from the hospital late Saturday afternoon.

According to various websites, hashish consists of the THC-rich, resinous material of the cannabis plant. It is dried and then compressed into balls, cakes or sheets. Pieces are then broken off and smoked in pipes.

Morgan can be seen demonstrating how to make "BHO" — butane honey oil — on YouTube videos he advertises on his Facebook page.

Margueritte Hickman, chief of fire and life safety with Ashland Fire & Rescue, said butane is a flammable gas that comes in the form of a liquid. Once released into the air, it only needs a spark or a flame to ignite.

"Using that inside of an enclosed structure or building is very unsafe," said Hickman.

Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or by email at avalencia@mailtribune.com.

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