Atlantic City, New Jersey, is known for many things. It is known for its casinos, for example, as well as for being near the Jersey shore and having access to a nearby boardwalk that once had a lovely amusement park on it. It’s known for being bordered by Ocean City, a completely dry city.
What it is not usually associated with, however, is the production of meth. However, someone decided that it would be a good idea to set up a meth lab in a casino hotel room. When that room eventually burst into fire, it put many people at risk.
The fire erupted Wednesday, February 14, in the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fire injured two individuals – the man who rented the room, and the casino employee who went into the room when it was discovered the room was ablaze.
Four floors of the Tropicana had to be evacuated when the fire broke out.
Luckily, damage to the casino and its attached hotel was limited and contained to the room on the 44th floor where the meth lab had been set up.
Police arrested the man who rented the room and who appears to have used it to cook meth. They charged Michael Pillar, a resident of nearby Whiting, Ocean County, with a laundry list of crimes.
Included on the list were charges for maintaining a drug production facility, possession of methamphetamine, and other charges.
The State Police deployed a hazardous-materials team in order to dismantle the lab and to ensure that the materials were disposed of safely and without injury.
Shockingly, the general manager of the Tropicana, Steve Callendar, said that the rooms in the immediate area would be prepared for residents again on Friday.
Callendar stated that the hotel’s rooms in the impacted area had been professionally inspected and declared safe, and cleared for use by patrons.
The fire was first reported at 9:47 A.M. on Wednesday and a worker at the Tropicana Casino quickly responded with a fire extinguisher.
The worker managed to put out the blaze, but the fumes posed a threat. Casino personnel vented the fumes from the meth lab fire by using portable fans to blow the fumes out through the windows.
The building’s sprinkler system functioned perfectly, preventing the fire from spreading.
After the fire was properly handled, casino surveillance revealed that three people, two men, and a woman, had fled the room.
Shortly after the fire, all three individuals were arrested on nearby Pacific Avenue. Only Michael Pillar was charged; the other two were released without charges and seemingly without conditions.
Meth labs are prone to fires and explosions, due to the caustic and flammable nature of many of the ingredients utilized in the process of making the drug.
Further, contrary to what shows like Breaking Bad may suggest to the casual observer, the average individuals arrested making meth are not Heisenberg. They’re more similar to Jesse.
When you mix flammable components and people with a barely-functional understanding of chemistry, you have a recipe for disaster (and for one of the foulest illegal substances available in America).
In fact, it’s not uncommon to see meth labs not simply catch fire, but actually explode, which would pose a much greater threat to people in the hotel.
It’s likely that a fast response by hotel staff, coupled with a well-designed sprinkler system, saved lives.
However, there is a secondary risk associated with meth labs.
The fumes that are produced while meth is being synthesized, even when everything goes ‘right’, are toxic. They can also linger, meaning that people may be ill days, weeks, even months later.
Meth is made using a variety of materials that are not hard to come by, and the main substance needed for the drug is commonly available in supermarkets and drug stores.
All things considered, the Tropicana Casino was extremely lucky that the lab was discovered when it was before it could do any serious damage. Whatever mistake or failure caused the fire, it may have saved the Casino a lot of money, as well as lives.
Hopefully, the charges brought against Michael Pillar are enough to keep him behind bars for a few years, and hopefully, he doesn’t think that making meth for a living is a brilliant employment idea when he gets out.
Otherwise, his desire to make a quick buck may well put decent people at risk again.