A fire in the Inner Sunset on Wednesday revealed a marijuana grow house, a situation that a city official says is an increasing problem in the western neighborhoods.
The fire at the three-story house in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood was reported just after 8 a.m., according to Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. The blaze at the house on Eighth Avenue between Moraga and Noriega streets was controlled just before 9 a.m.
Once firefighters entered the house to fight the fire, they immediately encountered marijuana plants, Hayes-White said. Fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said the first two floors were being used for cultivation, and the top addition of the house was used for loose-leaf drying of the plants.
Talmadge said someone had altered the home’s electrical system to bypass the PG&E meter, and investigators are looking into whether that caused the fire, which led to one firefighter being injured when he slipped on stairs and injured his shoulder.
Two homes on either side of the house that burned sustained minor damage. A resident of one of those homes, who declined to give his name, said new renters had moved in next door a couple of years ago, and around that time he began to smell marijuana.
“There was definitely an odor,” he said. “It smelled like skunk for about two years.”
The resident said his neighbors in the rental home had some visitors occasionally, but he did not see any suspicious activity.
Eileen Rizzo, who lives around the corner on Noriega Street, said she was surprised to find out the home was a grow house, since it is a “super-quiet neighborhood” where “everyone pretty much knows each other.”
But Supervisor Norman Yee, whose district includes the neighborhood, said marijuana grows appear to be an increasing problem in his District 7 and in District 4, which is represented by new Supervisor Katy Tang.
“This is not a one-of-a-kind thing in this neighborhood,” Yee said.
Yee said he met with a police captain recently and is researching how to combat the problem from a legislative standpoint.
“I’m trying to get a better handle on this,” he said.
He said he plans to reach out to residents to raise awareness about the issue and solicit their feedback on how to approach it.