Australian Observatory Saved After Wildfires, Police Uncover Drug Lab

A father-and-son team handling two drug labs set fire to the sites

By on January 14th, 2013 08:00 GMT

Two drug labs have burnt down in the Blue Mountains National Park in Australia, prompting the police to arrest two men in connection to the labs.

Wildfires were being reported on Wednesday morning, January 9, when officials were called in to assess the damage. The fire put the nearby Siding Springs observatory in danger of malfunctioning, reports say. However, no extensive damage has been reported.

Police knew of the existence of the drug laboratories making "ice," but had put off raiding them following wildfire warnings. They uncovered that the fire at the labs was set by a 27-year-old man from West Hoxton, who was running them with his 55-year-old father.

Drugs were being manufactured on a large scale at the facilities, according to the NSW police force website. The father-and-son team have been jailed and appeared in Sutherland Local Court.

“We will allege the two outdoor laboratories were capable of producing batches of more than five kilograms (11 lbs) at a time, and had potentially been operating for a number of years. That makes this among the largest drug manufacturing operations located in NSW,” Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter says.

“Fortunately, though the tremendous work of the Rural Fire Service and National Parks and Wildlife Service, the blaze was contained to an area of 50 hectares (123 acres) within the national park and did not damage homes,” he adds.

Hundreds of wildfires broke out in the area last week, prompting The Rural Fire Service of New South Wales to send out an alert to Siding Springs administrators, the Australian National University's research school of astronomy and astrophysics.

The site houses 10 telescopes, administered by Australian, Polish, British, Korean and American researchers, Daily Telegraph Australia writes. At least 12 properties burnt to the ground in the area, Canberra Times notes.

Yesterday, January 13, 130 fires were still burning, 40 of which had started over night, and 30 of which had not yet been contained.

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