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Fire damages medical marijuana clinic

July 20, 2009 6:07:47 AM PDT
A fire damaged a medical marijuana clinic in a two-story commercial building in Westchester Monday, but no one was hurt.Firefighters say the fire apparently started in the Westchester Collective medical marijuana dispensary. Arson investigators have been on scene all morning trying to figure out how the blaze was started.

The fire broke out just after 5:30 a.m. at Westchester Collective on the second floor of the building on the corner of Westchester Parkway and Sepulveda Boulevard.

It took 69 firefighters about 40 minutes to extinguish the blaze. Once it was put out fire crews were able to pinpoint the origin.

"[There was] heavy fire damage inside the medical marijuana plant, clinic, so that's the point of origin and that's where they're focusing their investigation," said Capt. Steve Ruda of the L.A. City Fire Department.

Firefighters believe the blaze started in a back office in the dispensary.

"Its office that's broken up into three separate areas. It was burning in the one in the back, got into the attic area and was working its way, this way," said Capt. Lance McCloskey of the L.A. City Fire Department.

A specially trained accelerant sniffing dog was used to investigate the scene. Firefighters had to use masks and ventilation fans to clear the air.

"The smoke is what kills people, now you add to it, you know, the possibility of a substance that could possibly injure or hurt or cause medical conditions to firefighters. We have to be concerned about that," said Capt. Ruda.

There are seven other businesses inside the building. Neighboring business owners believe the fire could have started accidently.

Even though some of the businesses received only minor damage in the fire, officials say they will all have to relocate temporarily until they can bring the building back up to code.

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