photo by Martin van den Hemel
Smoke wafting from the eaves and chimney of an older split-level house at 11780 Kingfisher Dr. in Steveston prompted a neighbour to call 911 on Friday morning.
It led to an odd exchange between firefighters and an occupant in the house, before the eventual discovery of what Richmond Mounties described this week as a “large scale” drug lab used to cook what they suspect is methamphetamine.
Around 11 a.m. Friday, with signs pointing to a possible fire inside, crews from Richmond Fire-Rescue initially knocked on the front door before resorting to banging when there was no answer.
After some delay, an Asian man answered the door, but he refused to let them in, and instead said everything was alright, and that he was simply cooking.
“He was cooking alright, à là Breaking Bad,” the neighbour told The Sentinel, referring to the popular award-winning AMC TV series about a high school chemistry teacher who, prompted by his own cancer diagnosis and worries about treatment costs, becomes a high-grade methamphetamine cook.
The home was eventually accessed, but the man who had answered the door had apparently left by that point, leaving his Toyota sedan parked out front.
Friday’s smoke wasn’t the first oddity about the house, a neighbour who asked to remain anonymous told The Richmond Sentinel Wednesday afternoon.
The house was most recently sold about a year ago, but it was in May that odd activity began to catch the attention of neighbours.
There were about a half-dozen vehicles, including high-end BMWs, that came and went at all hours of the day, but there were never any lights on at night, and there was never any garbage left at the curb on garbage day. The house was also strangely silent, and the curtains were never opened. One night, it appeared that someone inside the darkened home was waving around a flashlight.
The unusual activity eventually prompted one neighbour to call Richmond Mounties about a month ago, but the neighbour was told there was insufficient information to launch a police investigation. The neighbour was urged to call police back, when all the suspicious vehicles were parked there.
But the neighbour never did call police again, and expressed regret Wednesday at not doing so.
What unfolded Friday morning was a large emergency response by police, firefighters and ambulance, with several nearby homes evacuated, and streets being cordoned off as investigators worked.
Richmond RCMP Cpl. Adriana Peralta said investigators seized a “number of kilos” of suspected methamphetamine and precursors.
No arrests have been made, and the investigation—led by the RCMP’s organized crime unit–is ongoing. The involvement of this RCMP unit doesn’t mean this lab was necessarily connected to organized crime, she said, adding that the drug lab team is a part of the organized crime unit.
Peralta described the discovery as a “large scale lab” which reflects the quantity of methamphetamine drugs investigators believe were produced, she said.
Everything inside the house has been processed by police, Peralta said.
On Wednesday, the house was being boarded up by a restoration firm hired by the City of Richmond.
An order “not to occupy” the house has been issued.