As a result of the number of clandestine drug labs (CDLs) in existence today, there is an increasing risk of firefighters encountering these situations during firefighting duties.

CDLs are makeshift laboratories for manufacturing controlled substances such as methamphetamine. Once identified these situations should be treated as crime scenes.


The primary concerns for firefighters entering CDLs are:

  • electrocution
  • propane/natural gas/flammable liquid explosions
  • structural collapse
  • chemical hazards
  • toxic and corrosive atmospheric hazards
  • improperly contained toxic chemicals
  • booby traps

Fire personnel may be at risk of injury, illness or death from hazards at CDLs. They may need to quickly evacuate for their own safety.

Actions for employers

Employers must:

  • make workers aware of the hazards of CDLs
  • provide information and instruction to fire personnel to protect their health or safety

Safety considerations

Consider including the following information in procedures:

  • identifiers of potential CDLs, such as strong odours, exterior stains, excessive condensation on windows or enhanced security
  • situations which should be identified as hazardous material incidents due to the presence of hazardous waste or chemicals such as battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel, antifreeze, propane and/or anhydrous ammonia
  • identify the factors that contribute to the hazards of a CDL including chemicals, booby-traps and bypassed hydro connections
  • use of appropriate personal protective equipment, such as SCBA
  • when a CDL is discovered during firefighting operations, exit the area as soon as it is practical to do so, and notify police, ambulance, hydro and all other appropriate agencies
  • contact a hydro company to shut off power and do not touch any equipment or attempt to shut off power due to possible reactions and the type of operations
  • exercise caution as the power may still be on after the hydro company disconnects the service, because the hydro may be bypassed
  • if rescue is not required, do not enter a CDL until deemed safe by all responding emergency agencies
  • stay upwind and protect exposures from a safe distance
  • air quality testing prior to entry
  • decontamination requirements
  • coordinate and develop protocols with local police, utility companies and other agencies

Applicable regulations and acts


  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
    • clause 25(2)(a) for providing information and instruction to a worker
    • clause 25(2)(d) for making workers aware of hazards
    • clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers