PLACENTIA, Calif. - A marijuana grow operation and thousands of plants were discovered in Placentia after firefighters responded to a report of a power pole on fire in the area.
Placentia police received a report of the fire at around 3:18 p.m. Sunday. When fire crews arrived, they found out there was an electrical fire that had started on a telephone pole near the 700 block of S. Melrose Street near Orangethorpe Avenue.
Police said the surrounding area experienced a power disruption due to the electrical fire.
During the fire investigation, authorities determined there was a marijuana grow operation at a nearby building. Southern California Edison were able to trace the cause of the fire to a power surge coming from the building.
Investigators said it was partly the smell that tipped them off.
Authorities found up to 3,400 plants at the location, along with unsafe wiring and various chemicals, which prompted the Orange County Fire Authority to call its hazmat team to the scene to investigate.
The value of the operation was estimated to be worth several million dollars, Placentia police said.
"It's one of the bigger ones I can remember, and we've had quite a few over the years," said Sgt. Bryce Angel with Placentia police.
Officials believe the grow operation had been going on for several months.
"There's quite a few surveillance cameras on the outside of the business and a lot of secured mechanisms inside...it took the officers quite a while to get through the entire business, going through all the locked doors and whatnot," Angel said.
An investigation was underway to find out who is behind the operation. No arrests have been made.
Paul Saito, who lives down the street from the bust, has been involved in the medicinal industry for the last year, focusing on natural botanicals.
"It's OK to go and drink, but someone goes home and smokes a joint after work, you know, it's deemed bad from society," Saito said. "I think we need to change that outlook."
Under California law, people can have up to six plants on their property. It doesn't allow for anything like what was found on Monday.
So, can such large, illegal operations be stopped?
"I don't think so in today's day and age. Unfortunately, there's too much money involved in the business," Angel said.
Melrose Avenue between Orangethrope and Crowther Avenue was closed due to the investigation.
If you have any information about this incident, you're urged to contact Placentia police at (714) 993-8164. You can also submit anonymous tips by contacting Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.