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Man accused in honey oil explosion that injured firefighters pleads not guilty

JAVRIER AND ALEXANDER OCHOA

A man accused with his son of running a butane honey oil operation inside an Indio home, sparking a fire that injured several firefighters last fall, pleaded not guilty today to felony charges.

Javriel Rodriguez Ochoa, 60, is charged with four counts of unlawfully causing a fire causing great bodily injury and one count of manufacturing a controlled substance.

Alexander Samuel Ochoa, 32, previously pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

Both defendats are additionally charged with one felony count of animal cruelty involving birds that died inside the home due to the blaze, along with a misdemeanor charge of possessing marijuana for sale. The father-son duo remains out of custody after posting $50,000 bail each.

They are both scheduled to appear for a felony settlement conference on Nov. 19.

According to Cal Fire Capt. Specialist Kelly Becker, firefighters were dispatched to 83141 Long Cove Drive in Indio on Sept. 21, 2019, in response to a report of a house fire. During the firefight, an explosion occurred in the garage, with five firefighters being blown from a hallway to the kitchen area.

According to a declaration in support of arrest warrant prepared by Becker, one firefighter temporarily lost consciousness after hitting the ground. Three other firefighters suffered second-degree burns, and another suffered first-degree burns to his face and neck. The firefighters were transported to an area hospital for treatment, along with the defendants who suffered minor injuries themselves

"Both suspects declined to inform on-scene firefighters they were walking into an active, large, illegal marijuana butane honey-oil manufacturing operation,'' according to a department statement.

Honey oil, also known as hash oil, is a concentrated substance derived from marijuana plants. Butane, a flammable gas, is often used to produce honey oil, making it extremely dangerous.

Authorities later served a search warrant at the house and discovered 113 pounds of processed honey oil inside a refrigerator along with more than 650 pounds of marijuana trimmings inside trash bags. Chemicals including butane were also found, as well as other evidence of a hash-oil lab, according to court papers.

Following an extensive investigation, the pair were tracked down and arrested over the summer.

Neither defendant has any documented felony convictions in Riverside County.

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Jesus Reyes

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