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Fire leads to marijuana grow house in unincorporated San Gabriel

  1. Balzafire
    NORTH SAN GABRIEL - For the third time since late August, authorities responding to a fire discovered a house full of marijuana plants.

    Firefighters and deputies Monday found 1,700 marijuana plants growing in a beige house in the 9100 block of Duarte Road.

    The fire broke out at about 11 a.m. and was caused by a compost pile in the living room, investigators said.

    The grow houses are often run by Asian gangs that sell the high-potency pot to marijuana dispensaries, authorities said.

    "We get a couple of these a month," said L.A. County Sheriff's Detective David Mertens. "There's just a whole bunch of houses that are being rented out to these gangs."

    No one lived at the home but at least two Asian men would tend to the plants, Mertens said. No arrests were made, but authorities saw a man fleeing the home when the fire broke out.

    Authorities said the house was likely rented. They were trying to contact the owners.

    The inside of the house had been heavily damaged by its conversion into a green house, complete with electric ballasts, pipes, wiring, dirt, pots and fertilizer.

    But the front and back yards - including a pool - were kept in pristine condition.

    The pool man had been paid cash in advance for a year's worth of work, Mertens said.

    "If people are renting houses and paying in cash, there's a good possibility they may be doing something illegal in your house," Mertens said.

    Residents described the neighborhood as quiet. School children were making their way home on foot as sheriff's deputies finished taking down the growing operation Monday afternoon.

    Last month authorities in Rosemead found a grow house in the 2600 block of Kelburn Avenue after wiring led to a fire.

    An Aug. 31 house fire less than a mile to the south in the 1900 block of Portrero Grande in the unincorporated county area of South San Gabriel led deputies to discover more than 1,000 marijuana plants, investigators said.

    Fires often break out because the houses are rigged to bypass Southern California Edison meters as pot growers steal large amounts of electricity for the indoor operations, authorities said.

    Staff writer Brian Day contributed to this story.

    By Bethania Palma Markus
    Posted: 11/22/2010


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