Pot house goes up in smoke
FIREFIGHTERS BROUGHT A BURNING HOUSE containing a marijuana growing operation under control in about 40 minutes Saturday morning.
Narcotics detectives hauled out more than 800 marijuana plants Saturday after an early morning fire at what turned out to be an unoccupied grow-house at 17270 Keaton Ave. in the Springs.
Sgt. Steve Gossett, with the Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit, said there were more than 800 plants, in different stages of development, in the house. Some 400 of the plants were flowering.
Gossett, on Monday, said the growing operation covered the first and second floors of the three-story house. Growers, who had bypassed the PG&E meter, had more than 20 1,000-watt grow lights in the house.
Also on Monday, Capt. Allen Jones, Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue fire marshal, said the fire started on the first floor and the cause was electrical.
“I spent 10 hours in there,” he said. “And the sheer volume of wiring was not up to code.”
When firefighters from Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue arrived at the house at about 7:20 a.m., Saturday, there was no smoke coming from the windows. The house was flanked by vacant lots on both sides.
Sonoma Valley Division Chief Bob Norrbom said personnel found that they couldn’t get through the first door they attempted to open. When they could only get the second door open a crack because of ventilation fans, they discovered what they were actually dealing with. “We regrouped,” he said.
Norrbom said the fire was burning on the first and second floors in the rear of the house when personnel arrived.
“Every room on the first and second floor of the three-story house was a grow room,” Norrbom said.
“Whoever it was wanted the building secure,” he said. “All the windows and doors were boarded up and there was no address out front.”
Norrbom said he thought the fire may have started on the first floor, but the fire department suspended its investigation to allow the Sheriff’s narcotics investigators to do their job.
After getting a search warrant, Sheriff’s investigators removed what Norrbom said looked to be “several hundred plants.”
“I’ve been to some fires at grow houses,” he said. “But I’ve never seen one this big.”
Because of all the growing equipment, firefighters had a difficult time getting around once they were inside the house.
“This wasn’t your textbook-type of fire,” he said. “This was difficult.”
It took firefighters about 40 minutes to get the fire under control.
The first and second floors were heavily damaged while the third floor and attic sustained smoke and water damage. There were no injuries.
Firefighting difficulties were compounded because all the streets in the area are basically one-lane wide.
In addition to every one of Sonoma Valley’s engines, Glen Ellen and Schell-Vista supplied mutual aid. And Schell-Vista supplied station coverage with another engine.
“We had the Glen Ellen engine pumping from a second hydrant,” Norrbom said. “The water pressure up in the hills isn’t as good as it is on the Valley floor.”
Norrbom said that there were seven engines, a ladder truck and ambulance, a command vehicle and 25-to-30 firefighters who fought the blaze.