By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ceres house fire traced to legal pot growing operation
A Monday fire which caused $35,000 in damage to a west Ceres home was traced to an indoor marijuana growing operation which police say was legal.

The owners of the damaged home in the 1000 block of Hackett Road have a permit from the state to grow up to 80 pot plants for medicinal purposes, said Ceres Battalion Chief Mike Lillie. Police officers found about 60 plants growing under lights in a second-floor room.

"The fire was caused by the equipment in the room from the grow operation," said Lillie. "The fire started in the room. The only thing in the room was marijuana plants and growing equipment."

Ceres dispatchers began receiving calls about thick black smoke pouring out from the second floor of the residence immediately west of Strawberry Fields Park at 11:44 a.m. Within minutes firefighters arrived, found no one at home and had to force entry into the home. They found a second floor bedroom and bathroom on fire. Once the flames were knocked down and smoke cleared from the interior, firefighters could see the room bore a full-blown pot growing operation.

"After the fire was extinguished we found on the wall posted a medicinal cannabis license for up to 80 plants," said Lillie. "There was nothing the P.D. could do because they had the proper license. This was the first fire this large that I've seen from a legal grow operation."

Lillie said he's responded to fires in years past that were caused by illegal marijuana growing operation.

The owners of the home were in Sacramento at the time of the fire, said Lillie.

He noted that Turlock Irrigation District pulled the electric meter servicing the house as the matter was being reviewed by the electrical engineering department.

"They may have to upgrade to a larger electrical panel," said Lillie.

Besides loss of electricity, the owners now have to deal with a hole cut in the roof by firefighters accessing the attic. The fire also caused heat and smoke damage to the upper floor and contents with some minor smoke damage to the first floor and contents. He estimated damages at $30,000 to the structure and $5,000 to the contents.

The state of California allows medicinal marijuana use by permit, contrary to federal law.

The fire was attended to by 10 personnel in one ladder company, and three engine companies.