Downtown Mobile Meth Lab

Asheville police, Asheville Fire Department and a hazmat crew responded to the scene of a mobile meth lab on Asheland Avenue on April 14.

First responders said that police were called to the scene because of a suspicious backpack near the Asheville Transit Station.

Jeff Lyons of the Asheville Fire Department was on scene, answering the public’s questions and working to preserve evidence by directing away pedestrians.

“We’ve identified it as a possible mobile meth lab,” said Lyons, “what’s called a shake and bake lab.”

A shake and bake lab, also known as a one-pot method, is an increasingly common way of making meth using little more than the ingredients and a two-liter plastic bottle.

Asheville Police Public Information Officer Christina Hallingse said by phone that two men, Michael Wargo, 30, and Thatcher Penland, 22, were arrested and charged with manufacturing meth, resisting arrest and drug paraphernalia.

A crew member on scene from WLOS News 13 said they believed this to be a common occurrence. 

According to data released by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, the state saw a record number of methamphetamine lab busts in 2013 — 62 of the 561 “labs” that were taken down by law enforcement were located in North Carolina’s 18 westernmost counties.

WLOS News 13 reported that the State Bureau of Investigation arrived on scene just after 6 p.m. and then collected contents of the backpack for testing. The scene was cleared around 7 p.m., opening all lanes of Asheland Avenue.