Delayed fire call leads investigators to large pot operation

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A delayed call to Fresno firefighters led investigators to what they believe is a very large pot operation. (KFSN)

A delayed call to Fresno firefighters led investigators to what they believe is a very large pot operation. The fire started in a downstairs apartment, but that was on Saturday. The first time firefighters heard about it was Tuesday and what they found inside made that pretty shocking.

They didn't have much to do by the time they found out about the fire inside the apartment complex. Pictures from the inside show the damage, but firefighters were four days late. Civilians put out the fire on Saturday. "Which is pretty amazing because by looking at the apartment inside, it was a substantial fire," said Fresno police Sgt. Pete Boyer.

Investigators say they believe the call for help was delayed so the owner or the renter could get rid of evidence in the downstairs apartment where the fire did the most damage. But jerry-rigged electrical wiring and a trail of smoke led them upstairs as well. Inside, they found several hundred immature marijuana plants, and in a pile of trash just across the road, an Action News crew found a grow light, fertilizer and plant crates.

Police believe the pot grow was a very large operation, and that led to a standoff between an undercover police investigator deciding whether to make arrests and two men -- one of them the owner of the apartment; the other, the renter. "I'm asking you whose plants are upstairs," the investigator told the men just outside the doors.

When the downstairs renter's keys opened the door upstairs, police took both men into custody. Officers say they're lucky the fire they didn't report didn't spread any further. "There are other people living in this four-unit apartment complex, it's a very dangerous situation," said Sgt. Boyer. "The nearby apartment complex has children and so this was a very unsafe situation on Saturday and it's really amazing nobody called us."

Fire investigators say the bogus electrical wiring is what started the fire and that's pretty common at marijuana grows because the suspects think it disguises their heavy use of electricity.
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