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Drug Lab Inside Denver Homeless Camp Causes Explosion, City Finds 30 Propane Tanks

DENVER (CBS4)- Denver Public Safety Manager Murphy Robinson could be in trouble with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals after he dismantled a drug lab in a homeless encampment without giving notice. Robinson signed an executive order Saturday after the camp in north Denver went up in flames.

(credit: CBS)

"Propane tanks were on the scene and started to blow up. No one was hurt and that is of the grace of God," said Robinson in an interview with CBS4's Shaun Boyd.

Robinson says more than 30 propane tanks were inside the encampment near York Street and the A Line train route, not far from Clayton Street. It was clear what they were being used for.

"Evidence points to some type of drug lab, whether it was hash oil or a meth lab, we are unsure at this time."

(credit: Denver Fire)

He knew that if he didn't act fast, the fire could take out several city blocks. But if he did, he would violate a court order that, he says, treats drug labs in homeless camps differently than those in homes. It requires 48 hours notice before clearing a homeless camp.

Robinson says when the court issued its ruling, the city asked for emergency exceptions and was denied. He hopes it will now modify its order, which "shows a clear lack of understanding as these orders were put out by judiciary."

Robinson signed an executive order to clear the camp anyway and now risks being cited by the court. But that's not what worries him.

(credit: CBS)

"This time we were lucky, next time we could be talking about how we dealt with the loss of life... That is unacceptable to me and have to find a better solution."

He says the city offered those who had been living in the encampment housing but only one person took them up on the offer. Belongings that could be salvaged, he says, were put in storage.

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