COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - For 35 years, Ronnie Skinner has lived off of 54th Street near Veterans Parkway and over the past few days he says a strange chemical smell has been in the air.
Officials with the Columbus Police Department's Special Operations Unit say the stench was most likely coming from an active meth lab set up inside a nearby vacant realty building.
Officers say 26-year-old Craig Reynolds, from Fort Mitchell, Alabama, was supposed to be doing renovations at house across the street from Skinner but instead, he was making meth in the empty realty office.
Late Tuesday night, police say some of the lab's materials caught fire, sparking flames inside and out in the parking lot.
According to police, Reynolds was captured on surveillance footage carrying the flaming materials out of the front door and either kicked or dropped a open fuel container, setting fire to the ground and grass.
Once the fire was put out and a state clean-up crew called in to take care of the hazardous materials, investigators say they found all the necessary precursor materials for a meth lab.
"It shocks me being so close to the house. I understand meth lab will blow up and I wouldn't want to be that close to a place like that," Ronnie Skinner said.
Lieutenant Heath Taylor, Chief Investigation for the Russell County Sheriff's Office, says Skinner's exactly right, calling meth labs a growing "bi-city problem." Russell County investigators and narcotics officers have busted 20 labs since January.
"Everything that typically is used to make meth is explosive, flammable, highly toxic poisons and gases that you use for various other things and when you mix that to create meth or make meth, that in and of itself is in danger of exploding or causing death or injury to people there or even two or three door down from them," Lieutenant Taylor explained.
Craig Reynolds pleaded not guilty to the charge of Manufacturing Methamphetamine in court Wednesday.
He is being held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail.