The cost of cleaning up a meth house in Tulsa can be expensive

TULSA - Meth has become so prevalent in parts of Oklahoma.  Even those who have never seen the drug, much less tried it, are still feeling the effects.

An early morning fire at the Royal Arms Apartments in south Tulsa claimed two lives and changed many others.

Nikki Cain was trapped in her apartment as she called 911 for help.

"My apartment is on fire and I can't get out. I'm scared. Please hurry," said Cain to the 911 operator.

Firefighters found her unconscious. She lived, but we are told she suffered brain damage.

Two others died in the fire. When the smoke cleared, firefighters realized it was started by a meth lab.

The firefighters who were at the scene that morning say it's still hard to talk about.

"Everybody was working as hard as they could," said Firefighter Clay Holly.  "It was a real tight situation. We couldn't get equipment in. It was hard to get lines in and it's a long ways. There was a lot of people, a lot of fire, and a lot of wind."

The apartments have been rebuilt, but nobody can repair the damage to innocent victims.

"We just knew the fact it was a stinking big fire and that there was a lot of people involved and our first image was two people burned up. That will not leave us for a long time. I don't think it will ever leave us as firemen when you see people like that," said Holly.

The risk goes beyond apartment living.  Just ask Phillip Brotherton and his family.

Brotherton and his girlfriend, Kara Powell, bought a home in midtown Tulsa when Kara was seven months pregnant. It didn't take long for them to realize something was wrong.

Powell started getting skin irritations. Then a neighbor told them a meth lab had been busted in their home.

Even though the law requires it, the couple says the seller didn't disclose the information.

"We were so excited. We finally had our house. And we were getting everything together and set up," said Powell.  "We were excited to start our family and then we find out that and we had to move back into my mom's house. We had to live with her for a month. So he is a newborn and we were staying at my mom's house. It's not how we pictured starting out."

The couple spent more than $10,000 to make the home safe.  They replaced all the insulation, the kitchen cabinets and deep cleaned every surface. Because soft surfaces tend to soak up the toxins, Powell threw away all the baby's clothes.

Bill Coye, owner of APEX BioClean, says the size of the home and level of contamination determine the cost of the cleanup, which can be between $5,000 and $19,000, none of which is covered by insurance.

"People are just painting these places and encapsulating the contamination. There are hundreds of homes in Tulsa where this has already happened. If you do have a property that has been busted as meth lab, you need to have it tested and cleaned properly," said Coye.

So, what are signs of a meth house? Are the windows frosted or blacked out? Does the house have security cameras or surveillance equipment?

Here are some of the tell-tale signs to watch for:

Outside the house:

Dead patches in the yard from chemical waste
Frosted or blacked out windows
Equipped with security camera or surveillance equipment

Inside the house:

Smoke detectors may be removed or taped off
Large amount of glassware or tubing left behind
Walls and ceilings with dark red staining
Unusually strong smell of paint thinner, ammonia, rotten eggs, or cat urine
Empty containers left behind (paint thinner, acetone, lye, antifreeze, drain cleaner, etc.)
Altered or strange ventilation system
Walls, drains, sinks, or showers may be discolored and yellowed
Blue discoloration of valves on propane tanks, fire extinguishers

As for the Brotherton family, they finally feel safe in their home., and experts say no matter where you live there are risks, all because of meth.

"We all live with some type of risk associated with methamphetamine. Whether we live in an apartment complex or in a neighborhood, the ripple effect caused by the hazards, we all live with that," said Firefighter Chad Meyer.

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