Wildfires Uncover Drug Lab; Australian Fires Reveal Father And Son Drug Depot

on January 14, 2013 1:14 PM EST

Wildfire Uncovers Drug Lab
A wildfire revealed the location of a father and son run drug lab in Australia on Monday. (Photo: Reuters)

Raging Australian wildfires are causing headaches for emergency first responders, destroying 28 homes Monday and endangering Australia's world-famous Siding Springs Observatory. But the blazes may have added a key assist to a handful of police officers in New South Wales when wildfires uncovered a drug lab run by a father and son duo. The wildfires uncovered the drug lab as authorities were moving in to make an arrest, according to Reuters.  The father and son duo were arrested when police officials realized that the wildfire that uncovered the drug lab was set deliberately by the duo in an effort to dispose of the evidence. New South Wales police said in a statement Monday that the drug labs were in a location that was too difficult to approach on foot.

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"The two sites ... were only accessible by foot and required police to trek through tick, leech and snake-infested scrubland to reach them," said the statement.

The wildfires uncovered the drug labs and allowed authorities to get close enough to inspect the operation. Police said a father and son had been charged with "the large commercial manufacture of a prohibited drug" and contaminating a water catchment area. The son was also charged with starting the wildfire that uncovered the drug lab for authorities.

Australia is in the grip of a devastating heat wave, the likes of which has not been seen in 40 years but might just become an annual tradition, according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology. The types of wildfires like the one that uncovered the drug lab may becoming increasingly common as the summer continues, officials warn.

"Odds are in favor of hotter and drier conditions to the end of March," Karl Braganza, manager of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology, told the Sydney Morning Herald. The heat wave is currently raising temperatures to as high as 113 F in arid regions of the country, with temperatures reaching over 100 F in places like New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

A big question is what, exactly, was being manufactured when the wildfire uncovered the drug lab on Monday. According to a report from the Australian institute of Health and Welfare the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia is marijuana with around ten percent of the population using the drug regularly in 2010. Club drug ecstasy came in a distant second with around three percent of the population believed to be using the drug.

As for the telescopes that were nearby the wildfire that uncovered the drug lab, the damage remains unknown.

"We do not yet know what impact the extreme heat of the ash might have on the telescopes themselves," said Erik Lithander, acting vice chancellor of the Australian National University, which operates the observatory.

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