State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Agent Neil Compston surveyed the charred damage. "You can see they pulled the meter off ... it was actually circumvented on the inside."
Possibly to avoid suspicion and a huge electric bill whoever set up the lighting system to grow the plants, bypassed the electric meter and rewired the house. But the wiring failed, melting and causing the fire.
"This is an ongoing problem we're seeing multiple houses where the wiring has been altered and obviously you end up with a serious fire hazard." Compston said.
The fire Monday afternoon gutted the garage, and smoke damaged the rest of the house. Nobody lived here, it was just an indoor pot farm. Some neighborhood residents were surprised and frightened to learn there was a criminal operation on their street.
Nobody we spoke with would appear on camera but one man talked to us. He said; "It's kind of shocking actually because of the fact they were so unobtrusive and the fact they were able to blend in so well into the neighborhood with no one really recognizing what was going on to be able to say hey, something suspicious is happening here."
Another neighbor told us he had suspicions. Smelled marijuana thought the odd comings and goings from the house were suspicious, and claims he even alerted police, a year ago. He doesn't know if they investigated, but Compston believes this operation had been underway for a long time.
"With the interior of the house the way that it looked it's been in the process for quite awhile. And they were in the process of expanding it." Compston said.
Compston tells us the house is full of mold, and the upper floors are sagging from the water draining from the irrigation system. "These houses are obviously not designed to be used as greenhouses."
But they do work. The potential value of the 1,200 plants found here is estimated to be around $2 million, and narcotics investigators believe there are many more houses just like this in the Merced area, posing a hidden fire danger.
Investigators are trying to figure out who owns this house and who set up the growing operation.NEWS BY LOCATION | ABC30 BLOGS | DISCUSSION FORUMS
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