South Side fire brings to light meth lab operation

A South Williamsport couple remains in prison this morning after fire department officials responded to a basement fire in a house Saturday that turned out to be a residence serving as a laboratory manufacturing methamphetamine.

Michael E. Harris, 37, and Courtney P. Long, 29, of 534 Childs Drive, a street that dead-ends near the Little League complex, were arraigned before District Judge Jon Kemp on multiple charges filed by state police and jailed in Lycoming County Prison in lieu of  $200,000 each, South Williamsport Police Chief Robert Hetner said Sunday evening.

Firefighters responded to the cellar fire about 7 p.m. and in the process of dealing with putting the fire out noticed what they suspected could be chemicals that could be used to manufacture the drug.

They quickly drew the attention of two borough police officers, Devin Thompson and Michael Samar, who, through their training, determined that the house possibly was being used as a lab for manufacturing the dangerous street drug.

“Credit to the fire department, which saw what turned out to be drug paraphernalia and passed that tip off to the officers,” Hetner said. In the process of checking the scene, indications were there that methamphetamine activity was occurring inside the home.

The officers contacted Hetner who requested the assistance of state police. The state police Clandestine Laboratory Response Team, which included a chemist, arrived on the scene and processed it, Hetner said.

More than 20 items were seized from the house that were believed to be used in the manufacturing of methamphetamines, Hetner said.

“Adding to our concern is we are talking about a manufacturing operation in the middle of a residential area near the Little League complex, and an 8-year-old daughter of the mother inside the home, in addition to the grandfather,” Hetner said. “You need to keep in mind that some things in making of this drug you might not always recognize. Many of these are legal.”

For Hetner, it is a unique call and one he doesn’t want to see happen again in the borough. “Hopefully it’s an isolated problem,” he said, adding how pleased he is with the fire department and police cooperating with the state police to get it shut down.

Those in the neighborhood may not have been aware, he said. Lycoming County Children and Youth officials were notified and referenced the issue of the small child in the home while a drug lab was operating. The house has not been closed, Hetner said.

Both Harris and Long have been charged with manufacture and intent to manufacture a controlled substance, methamphetamine; operating a methamphetamine laboratory; unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine with a child present; endangering the welfare of children; recklessly endangerment; possession of various drug paraphernalia to be used in the manufacturing, storage and possessing of methamphetamine and other charges.