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Luxury home housing illegal cannabis grow goes up in smoke

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400 weed plants found as California firefighters douse flames, but home described as a total loss

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Firefighters battling a blaze at a million-dollar home in Covina Hills, Calif. soon discovered the structure was not home to residents, but illegal weed plants.

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Emergency workers responding to the two-storey home engulfed in flames arrived on the scene at about 9 a.m. on Dec. 12, according to NBC Los Angeles.

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ABC 7 reports firefighters initially went into “defensive mode” to prevent the massive flames shooting through the roof of the house from spreading to other properties. It was noted that about an hour later, the blaze appeared to be under control.

  1. Firefighters on scene alerted police to a suspected grow-op.

    Electrical fire in illegal grow-op draws police attention

  2. The preliminary investigation indicated the blaze was started in a pile of weeds on the property, but there were more weeds in the deputies’ immediate future. /

    House on fire reveals million dollar cannabis grow-op next door

  3. Firefighters attending the scene at about 2 p.m. on Sept. 12 were met by heavy smoke coming from the east side of the barn.

    Fire breaks out at a barn in Northumberland County revealing an illicit cannabis grow-op

Upon entering the 3,000-square-foot structure, which was vacant, firefighters were met by wall-to-wall illegal cannabis plants in compartmentalized rooms and a home apparently dedicated to growing illegal weed. The structure also housed plenty of specialized equipment used for cultivating cannabis.

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Citing lighting, water, air fans and heating elements, Battalion Chief Michael Brown of the L.A. County Fire Department said all such elements are “required for proper grows,” adding that plants around the house were at various stages of growth, per NBC Los Angeles.

FOX11 reported that when the SkyFOX helicopter flew over the scene at about 11 a.m., dense smoke was still coming from the property. Per Los Angeles Daily News, the fire was extinguished at about 11:45 a.m.

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Various media reports cite the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office as reporting that approximately 400 cannabis plants were found inside the property, which was reported to have been sold last spring.

A tweet from the sheriff’s office later noted that arson investigators were “on scene of a fire at an indoor marijuana grow in Covina Hills,” and that the road had been reopened and the neighbour was safe.

Both medicinal and recreational cannabis is legal in California, with adults 18 and older allowed to buy the former if the person has a physician’s recommendation and adults 21 and older permitted to buy cannabis for recreational use, according to California’s Department of Cannabis Control.

Authorities release photos of illegal cannabis grow found inside a burnt-out house in Covina Hills. /
Authorities release photos of illegal cannabis grow found inside a burnt-out house in Covina Hills. / Photo by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office

The state also allows adults 21 and older to grow as many as six cannabis plants at home for personal use as long as volatile solvents aren’t used. “Some cities and counties have specific rules for home grows, such as permit requirements or requiring grows to be indoors,” the information states.

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For Covina, “a person may not cultivate cannabis without first registering on forms available at the Covina police department, and paying the registration fees that shall be set by resolution of the city council,” adds city information on cannabis prohibitions and regulations.

With regards to the Covina Hills incident, no injuries were reported, no other properties were damaged, no arrests have been made to date and an investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing.

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NBC Los Angeles reports, however, that fire investigators suspect the specialized equipment used in the grow sparked the fire.

“We had a roof built on top of a roof and as we cut holes into the roof to let heat and smoke escape, it’s not escaping because it’s already fortified in a way,” Brown is quoted as telling the news outlet.

A neighbour, who said he was happy for recent rain that might have helped stop the flames from reaching his property, told NBC Los Angeles that the quiet neighbourhood was home to families and retirees.

Fires and illegal grow-ops are nothing new. The Associated Press reported last year that authorities, again in California, found 11,000-plus cannabis plants at an illegal growing operation in Redlands, east of L.A., after one of three buildings, which apparently served as living quarters, caught fire.

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Firefighters discovered about 400 cannabis plants throughout the property while battling the blaze. /
Firefighters discovered about 400 cannabis plants throughout the property while battling the blaze. / Photo by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office

Earlier this year in Martin County, Fla., a sophisticated marijuana grow house with up to 600 plants inside a barn was discovered when a blaze broke out and firefighters were called to the scene.

According to WPBF News, the illegal grow was being powered via pirated power via 30 stand-alone air conditioning units and tons of wiring. “An electrical nightmare … nitrous oxide in the back, propane and different things exploding as they got here,” John Budensiek, chief deputy of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, said at the time.

And last year in Michigan, a fire that broke out at an industrial building revealed an illegal marijuana grow facility that investigators estimated had a cash value of at least US$100,000 ($135,000), per Macomb Daily.

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