What started as a fire call in southwest Edmonton last weekend ended with police seizing more than $3 million worth of carfentanil.
On Sunday, Jan. 28, Edmonton fire crews were called to a multi-unit residence in the area of 109 Street and 69 Avenue — between the Parkallen and Allendale neighbourhoods.
Firefighters on scene discovered “a suspicious powder substance” in an empty basement suite and called police at 7 p.m.
Police later searched the home and found 12 one-kilogram bags of white powder, 16 one-kilogram bags of blue powder, a similar pink powder substance, along with additional packaging and drug paraphernalia.
Investigators determined the blue and pink powders contained carfentanil, which “was likely destined for street-level distribution.” The estimated street value of the drugs is more than $3.2 million, police said.
“Broken down, there was probably 161,000 doses within that 16 kilograms,” EPS Insp. Shane Perka said.
Police said the white powder was a buffing agent.
“I want to make it clear that we’re not talking about pure carfentanil here. It’s carfentanil buffed with a different agent. In this case, we believe it to be caffeine,” Perka said.
READ MORE: What is carfentanil?
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and 5,000 more potent than heroin.
“Given its toxicity, the ingestion of these substances even in trace amount can be lethal,” Perka said in a media release Friday.
“The residence has since been condemned by Alberta Health Services until further notice. This underlines the risk toxic opioids present not only to the residents at this property but to those who could have come into contact with it on our streets.”
No charges have been laid and the investigation continues.
Perka said the residence was a rental property and believed it was the people upstairs who called the fire department.
“There’s nothing to indicate that they were involved.”
Police want to speak with the person(s) living in the basement suite but haven’t been able to identify or find them yet.
“There was a tenant in the basement, however the tenant wasn’t there,” Perka said. “It was being lived in. To what extent and for how long that tenant had been there, I’m not going to comment on that.”
Perka said that basement tenant would be considered a person of interest in the case.
He said the amount of product seized would indicate “larger, upper level distribution.”
“For the Edmonton Police Service, in respect to carfentanil, it’s the largest seizure that I’m aware of. And speaking to some of our law enforcement partners throughout the province and across Canada, this is a very substantial seizure.”
Perka didn’t think the community was in immediate danger.
“This is just another example of a house that could be in any neighbourhood within the city where illegal activity is occurring,” he said. “The opioid crisis is well documented… Yes, this is going on in our community and all corners of our community.”
The owner of Trauma Scene Bio Services Inc. said his company hasn’t started cleaning the house yet but Brent Olynyk expects it will take about three days. Olynyk said the cleaning process will involve testing for narcotics, vacuuming and bio-washing, which involves the use of a specific chemical to neutralize the drugs.
He said this isn’t the biggest drug scene his company has cleaned, but it is the most complicated since there were other tenants living in the house and a lot of personal contents. Olynyk said his work will involve determining what those tenants will be able to keep and what must be thrown out for safety reasons.
Randy Wood has lived in the neighbourhood for six years and didn’t know the people who lived in the home. He said he saw the fire trucks at the residence on Sunday but had no idea anything illegal was going on.
“It’s pretty scary, especially with the deaths and stuff related to that. I’m glad they’re there getting a handle of it,” he said.
“Fortunately, my kids are all grown and they’re not around here so that’s not part of my worry. But still, this is a quiet neighbourhood and there are kids here.. so you worry about that type of stuff.”
The EPS is working with the Canada Border Services and other police agencies on this investigation to determine where the carfentanil may have originated.