Colorado deputies were on the hunt for the seat of a fire at a house that was a blaze, but were surprised to make a more interesting fine: an illegal grow-op estimated to have a street value of about US$1.4 million ($1.8 million).
Deputies with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) were among the sheriff’s fire team, members of which are wildland fire-trained, called to a house fire on Nov. 22.
Sheriff’s office firefighters, along with Pueblo Rural firefighters, managed to quickly snuffed out the blaze, which showed smoke coming from the windows and ceiling, notes a PCSO statement yesterday. Although the home was extensively damage, it was unoccupied and there were no injuries.
The fire response was efficient, with the preliminary investigation indicating the blaze was started in a pile of weeds on the property before spreading to the house. But there were more weeds in the deputies’ immediate future.
While searching for the homeowners, deputies checked out a large outbuilding near the residence. That’s when they “saw evidence of a possible illegal marijuana grow operation,” given the multiple electrical panels, large air-conditioning units and vents.
Upon obtaining a search warrant, narcotics detectives entered the building, finding and seizing 1,446 marijuana plants. That’s about 120 times the allowable limit in legal Colorado, which is a maximum of 12 cannabis plants per household.
Upon obtaining a search warrant, narcotics detectives entered the building, finding and seizing 1,446 marijuana plants. /
Information from the state government notes that residents 21 and older can grow marijuana in their homes for personal use. While up to six plants are allowed per eligible resident, some counties and municipalities “can pass stricter laws,” government reports.
“The extreme number of marijuana plants in this grow is a sign that the product was intended solely for black market sale,” Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor says in the statement. “We will continue to seek out and eradicate these types of grow operations until all of those responsible for them realize it’s against the law.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the recent discovery, but the PCSO is continuing its investigation. The house has also been condemned and the electricity to the outbuilding shut off.
Fire investigations and illegal cannabis grows have often crossed paths. Just last month in Oregon, sheriff’s officials found an illegal marijuana grow with more than 2,000 plants while responding to a structure fire.
Officials were also surprised to find illegal grows over the past year in southeast Wales and Scotland.
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