Fire uncovers huge pot grow operation
An early morning fire Saturday heavily damaged what turned out to be a marijuana grow house at 17270 Keaton Avenue in the Springs.
An early Saturday morning fire at a house on Keaton Avenue turned out to be more challenging than firefighters thought when they discovered it was a marijuana-grow house – a huge marijuana growing operation.
When firefighters from the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue arrived at the unoccupied house at 17270 Keaton Ave., at about 7:20 a.m., there was no smoke coming from the windows.
Sonoma Valley Division Chief Bob Norrbom said personnel found that they couldn’t get through the first door they tried, and when they could only get the second door opened a crack because of ventilation fans, it was then they discovered what they were 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.”
He thinks 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. Because of the Sheriff’s investigation, fire investigators haven’t been able to determine what caused the blaze.
After getting a search warrant, Sheriff’s investigators removed what Norrbom estimated 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.
It was also difficult because all of the streets in that 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.”
Fire personnel were still on scene late Saturday afternoon.
Norrbom said that there were seven engines, a ladder truck, and ambulance, a command vehicle and 25-to-30 firefighters who fought the blaze.