Suspected Meth Cook Charged with Arson Following an Apartment Fire on Walnut Street
A Springfield man is charged with first degree arson tonight after investigators say his meth lab sparked a fire in an apartment. Firefighters say the chemical fumes put other tenants in danger. Dale Penechar is charged with first degree arson.

An eviction sign is hung on the door of the apartment the fire started in on west Walnut Street. “It bothers me a lot the fumes could make the entire apartment, if not the building, poisonous,” neighbor Ruth Fleming said. Fleming lives right across the hall from the apartment that caught fire. She says meth is a problem. “This is where I can afford to live right now and it's prevalent,” Fleming said.

Many people who live in the eight unit building were potentially exposed. “Smoke is bad enough as it is however when you add the chemicals being used in meth production it adds significantly to the danger,” Springfield Fire Marshal Bill Spence said. “When you start heating them in a fire and you are putting them in the atmosphere they are an inhalation issue. People in the immediate area are inhaling those chemicals and those toxins.”

According to court documents as soon as a small explosion ignited the fire, Penechar ran from the building. “It could have been horrendous. It literally could have killed multiple people,” Fleming said. “It was 3:00 in the morning when this all happened. We could have all died in our sleep. It's amazing nobody was hurt.”

“Meth is a horrible thing and I don't think the people that are doing it care about anything but their next hit of meth,” Fleming said. “I think they are in a place that they can't care and that's sad.”

A fire marshal says investigators found rock salts, liquid fire, glassware and coffee filters in the scorched kitchen area. Penechar’s bond is set at $50,000.