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DENVER - Authorities say three people are hurt after an explosion at a marijuana growing operation in the 1200 block of South Lipan Street in Denver.

Investigators say the explosion happened Wednesday while the people were using butane to extract the intoxicating chemical THC from the marijuana plant. Denver Fire spokesman Mark Watson says the injured people were likely trying to make hash oil. The process is dangerous and has caused several similar explosions in Colorado and around the country.

A fire department source tells 9NEWS the operation may have been an informal co-op. Watson says the area is not zoned for a marijuana grow operation and owners of the plants are not permitted to create THC concentrate.

Cindy Gilmore witnessed the explosion.

"You could see that when a boom went off a big ball of flame was coming out of the end of the building," Gilmore said.

Recently, 9NEWS spoke with fire engineer Brian Lukus to learn more about this explosive trend that investigators believe is directly related to the legalization of pot.

"Now that recreational [pot] is legal, the need for it is expanding, so we're seeing a lot more production of marijuana extractions," Lukus said.

A bulletin issued by Rocky Mount HIDTA, a drug task force, outlines the dangers for both residents and law enforcement officers as more people begin using legal pot to make THC concentrate without a license. The drug task force says hash oil can go for up to $60 per gram on the street.

"It is startling. That's why we're tracking it," Lukus said.

Butane gas has no distinct smell, which means neighbors likely have no idea they may be living steps from one of the most dangerous businesses in Denver.

"It is amazing that no one's been killed," Lukus said.

Two men and a woman were taken to hospitals with second-degree burns.

Watson says the building, in an industrial area, wasn't damaged.

Watson says the three people involved will likely face charges and that investigators are working on obtaining a search warrant for the property.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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