Fire damages Martinez home suspected of being meth lab

Columbia County authorities arrested three people Wednesday in connection with a suspected drug lab fire that gutted a house in Martinez.

Columbia County firefighters were called to 3510 Rainbow St. about 10:30 a.m. for a one-story brick home engulfed in flames. Residents Michael Russell, 52, and Kathleen Stanford, 40, were taken into custody, along with 24-year-old Blake Barfield, of Clearwater.

“Russell was transported to the hospital where he is being treated for minor burns he received when the meth lab exploded,” Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said in an e-mail.

The three suspects will be charged with the manufacture of methamphetamine, Morris said.

Russell was in the house and was pushed out a side window by Stanford, authorities said.

“He was caught in the corner over there and I was right over there at the door, texting on the phone,” Stanford said.

Miguel Garcia Sr., who lives across the street, saw the flames and called 911.

“I came outside, and I could see the flames billowing out of the picture window, out of the side of the house, 10 or 15 foot above the roof line,” Garcia said. “Mike (Russell) was hollering, ‘Call 911!’ I could feel the heat in the middle of my yard.”

Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Jim Champion said firefighters put out the fire in two to three minutes.

County fire officials are still investigating to determine the exact cause of the blaze.

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