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L.A. fire reveals $1M pot operation

July 9, 2009 11:40:18 AM PDT
A fire at a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles Thursday became a criminal investigation after firefighters discovered the remnants of an apparent marijuana operation.When firefighters got the call at about 6:40 a.m., the building on S. Santa Fe Avenue near 6th Street was fully engulfed. When firefighters arrived flames were shooting from the roof, doors and windows of the warehouse.

More than 50 firefighters battled the blaze, knocking it down within 40 minutes.

Once the flames were out, firefighters found hundreds of marijuana plants. The street value of the drugs is estimated to be $1 million.

According to authorities, the plants found in the warehouse were high in THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana.

Investigators say that inside the building was a full blown growing operation.

"There are tables and hydroponic equipment and some immature plants numbering in the hundreds," said LAPD Lt. John Romero. "We are talking about immature plants that are about 4- to 6-inches high, and those are just the green ones. The dry product that was in there was likely consumed in the fire."

Once the marijuana was discovered, fire officials say they called in their hazmat teams. The pot fumes were not just the concern, but the equipment and products used to grow it can also contain dangerous chemicals.

The cause of the blaze is said to be linked to all of the electricity needed to power the large scale growing operation.

"It looks as if the preliminary cause is electrical. And if it is what we have determined it to be -- a marijuana operation -- a lot of power and electricity is coming into the building and overloading what is there," said Batt. Chief Greg Gibson, L.A. City Fire Department.

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