One of two men accused of accidentally starting fires while extracting the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana from cannabis plants was arrested Thursday, while the other pleaded not guilty to felony charges.
Aaron James Ellwanger, 48, was arrested Monday evening after a non- injury fire in a garage in the 3900 block of East Sunny Dunes Road, Palm Spring police Sgt. Harvey Reed said. He was allegedly trying to extract THC from marijuana plants by using flammable gas and a heat source, and the gas ignited, Reed said.
Ellwanger pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to charges of recklessly causing a fire and attempting to manufacture a controlled substance. He's being held at Banning's Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility, with bail set at $50,000.
About 6:45 p.m. Monday, another explosion and fire was reported at a home in the 1500 block of Wawona Road. The fire was out when officers arrived, but 29-year-old Charles Wunderlich, one of the occupants, was determined to have allegedly been extracting THC from marijuana plants.
Wunderlich, who fled before officers arrived, was arrested around 4 Thursday afternoon in the 1500 block of North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, Reed said.
The two fires and suspects were not believed to be connected, the sergeant said.
Extracting THC from the plant entails charging a tube packed with pot with compressed butane -- the highly flammable gas is heavier than air at room temperature -- then evaporating the precipitate into a smokable, waxy substance. Some waxes can be nearly pure THC.
— City News Service.