Police say White City explosion may be tied to illegal cannabis extraction

Update (04/23/2021, 12:11 p.m.) – One of the men injured in the explosion on Antelope Road died at OHSU in Portland. The second man remains in the hospital.


Original story: WHITE CITY, Ore. – The Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office is looking for a man in connection with several explosions in White City Wednesday night. Police said two men were severely burned, at what they believe was an illegal cannabis extraction operation. Many questions are still unanswered. The cause of the explosions is unknown. After a late-night, multiple agencies were back on the scene Thursday trying to piece together the puzzle.

Thirteen units from two different agencies rushed toward White City, as more people reported explosions around 8:15 pm Wednesday night. Fire District 3 Battalion Chief Jeff Bancroft was one of nearly 24 firefighters containing the tall flames.

“The building was completely engulfed in flames. We had flames about 40-50 feet in the air,” said Bancroft.

Bancroft said it took about 45 minutes to control the flames.

“There were propane containers, possibly other gas cylinders inside that were exploding, shooting off great big balls of fire at the top,” said Bancroft.

Four men were in or around the property when the explosions happened. Two men are being treated for severe burns at a Portland hospital. One man suffered minor burns. Another fled the scene. Police are hoping to talk with him.

“As the investigation went on we found out that that fourth individual was a male adult who had run from the scene,” said Mike Moran, PIO for Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office.

Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Department is taking the lead on the case, but partnering with Fire District 3, Medford Police, and the DA’s office. But as many are asking what business burned? Police admit they don’t know.

“That’s the key to this investigation. What was it suppose to be and what actually was it? That’ll be one of the major questions that the search warrant and investigators will answer,” said Moran.

But even this early, they have an idea.

“We think that there was an illegal cannabis extraction operation going on. We’re going to try and verify that information,” said Moran.

The storage facility on the 15-hundred block of antelope road is now being treated as a crime scene.

“It’s not absolute that there will be charges, but we’re pretty early in the investigation,” said Moran.

If you have any information about this case, contact the Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office.

About 200 homes or businesses lost power after the explosions Wednesday night. Pacific Power was there Thursday, checking out the scene.

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Katie Streit
NBC5 News reporter Katie Streit comes from her hometown, Las Vegas. Katie went to the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, Katie won a Student Emmy for her coverage of the Las Vegas Shooting Anniversary. She also hosted and produced the university's political news show, where she interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). Her passion for politics turned into a coveted internship at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. In her final months working in the Las Vegas area, she was recognized for her journalism achievements by the Nevada Broadcaster's Foundation. Katie is excited to tell the stories of local Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]