For those unfamiliar with this catastrophe, which was reportedly caused by the reckless act of an unthinking individual, 16 residents were displaced from their homes by a potentially lethal blaze whose origin has been determined to be a clandestine methamphetamine lab.
So many questions to be asked, and only one person who can answer them — the “meth cook.”
To illicitly manufacture an illegal narcotic, whose own production process is as dangerous as the drug itself, confounds the imagination of law-abiding Cleveland and Bradley County residents.
To produce this deadly chemical, while knowing full well its risks, in the surroundings of innocent neighbors is mystifying.
To be the person responsible for a subsequent residential blaze when the makeshift meth lab “flashed” is inconceivable.
To know that one’s foolishness was compounded even more by the decision to flee the scene when efforts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful is maddening.
To abandon the uncontrolled blaze without alerting innocent neighbors is unforgivable.
These were all the reported actions of a 27-year-old Cleveland man whose reprehensible actions of manufacturing meth in his bathroom on the eve of Monday, Jan. 2, forced the evacuation of the apartment complex and the treatment of three victims on the scene.
People could have died, including children.
Youngsters, perhaps infants, could have been badly burned.
Neighbors could have been maimed for life.
As it is, all were saved through the heroic actions of the Cleveland Fire Department and the timely response of staff and volunteers from the Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Yet, all 16 apartment complex residents were displaced.
The alleged meth producer’s apartment has been quarantined due to the toxic hazards associated with methamphetamine production.
Reports by investigating teams have confirmed the suspect was utilizing the “one-pot method” to produce the illegal drug when the chemicals flashed, burning his arms and hands and setting the bathroom on fire. Investigators stated the culprit attempted to smother the flames with a blanket, was unsuccessful and then fled the apartment complex without notifying neighbors of the fire.
He proceeded to a relative’s residence and eventually to SkyRidge Medical Center where hospital staff notified investigators of an alleged victim from the fire. Authorities took him into custody after treatment.
Damage and loss to the apartment complex was listed at approximately $1 million.
That was just the material damage to a physical structure and personal possessions.
We are most concerned with human life and the tragedy of its needless loss — all due to the thoughtless actions of one individual.
The defendant will have his day in court.
We will not judge the individual. We will judge his actions and his horrendous decisions.
We trust the judicial system will act promptly and wisely while considering the potential of such reckless behavior in its proceedings.
Regardless of the legal outcome of this frightening case, our biggest fear is those meth manufacturers who will continue to place at risk the innocent lives of others while committing their unlawful and foul deeds.
It is inexcusable.
And it stirs our anger.