SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) – Three men who were severely burned in an explosion inside a Santa Cruz apartment building on Sunday were producing hash oil before the blast, a police spokesman said Monday.

The explosion and resulting one-alarm fire were reported at about 1:30 p.m. at the building in the 700 block of Third Street, Santa Cruz fire Battalion Chief Mike Venezio said.

Police said Monday that the men were extracting hash oil from marijuana using butane gas, and fumes from the gas were apparently ignited by a pilot light in a water heater.

The resulting explosion blew out the wall beside the water heater and sent flames back into a small storage room where the three male victims were located, Deputy Santa Cruz police Chief Steve Clark said.

Additional explosions from butane canisters in the building hindered initial efforts by Santa Cruz firefighters to suppress the blaze, Clark said.

The three men, whose injuries were considered life-threatening, received immediate medical treatment from emergency personnel, Clark said.

The victims, one 25-year-old and two 23-year-olds, remain in extremely critical condition at a hospital trauma center Monday, according to Clark.

All three are Santa Cruz residents and two live in the apartment building, police said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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