Merced authorities see rise in honey oil explosions

MERCED, Calif.

Ward is facing a felony charge.

Police were dispatched to a home on the 800 block of 21st Street in Merced before 8:30 Wednesday night.

77-year-old Barbara Geer-Sojka house is located behind the Ward's home.

"As I stepped out to get a closer, it just Boomed!" she said. Pieces of the home flew out into Ward's backyard. Geer-Sojka had a clear view of the debris from her front yard.

"I'm still a little jittery," she said.

Police say ward was making honey oil in the laundry room in the back of the house. Honey Oil is a marijuana extract, which yields a stronger effect. Making it, involves marijuana and the use of butane gas.

Police say they found butane cans, glass tubing and cultivated marijuana inside the house.

Fire fighters believe that the butane gas made contact with an open flame, the pilot light of the water heater in the kitchen. They believe that's what triggered the explosion.

Ward received minor injuries. His girlfriend was with him at the time. She was not hurt.

Geer-Sojka says she did not get along with Ward.

"He was a nasty neighbor to me," she said, "I would be doing yard work and he'd be like, "boo, you're a crazy old lady," or I'd be hanging clothes on my clothes line and he'd say, "You're two inches on my property."

Ward's mother painted a different picture of her son. She says he was well liked by the neighborhood. She says her son works for the family tree-trimming business and does not believe he was involved in any illegal activity.

However, police say Ward told officers at the scene that he was making honey oil that night.

Lt. Andre Matthews of the Merced Police Department says accidents involving honey oil are becoming more and more common in the area. This is the second he's heard about in Merced.

"We're very concerned because of the growing trend," Matthews said. "This incident occurred in a single family residence but we've had incidence where they're close to adjoining structures or apartment complexes."

Lex Bufford, owner of a local shop and a cannabis advocate, says a purer form of marijuana could have medical benefits. He says that marijuana concentrates like honey oil aren't new, though the methods used to make it, are an emerging trend.

"It's not anything to be afraid of," Bufford said. "It's just a matter of knuckleheads -- maybe the public service sector might want to educate them about the dangers of using butane in a confined space.

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