Firefighters stumble on indoor pot facility

An indoor marijuana growing operation worth up to $350,000 in the Ingleside Heights neighborhood was inadvertently discovered by San Francisco firefighters when they responded to a single-alarm fire early Friday morning.

At 1:33 a.m., firefighters headed to 125 Ramsell St. just behind Brotherhood Way after a neighbor reported a fire at the house, said Fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge. When fire trucks arrived, smoke billowed from the top floor of the home. Talmadge said the fire appeared to have started in the garage.

San Francisco firefighters found up to 400 marijuana plants inside. No one appeared to be living at the house, according to San Francisco police, who have started an investigation into the operation.

The blaze was under control within 20 minutes and there was no damage to neighboring properties, which share walls with the residence, she said.

Talmadge said police were summoned when firefighters discovered the marijuana plants.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation Friday. Fire Lt. Ken Smith said when firefighters discover indoor grows, faulty wiring is usually to be blamed.

The growers typically cut power lines and reroute electricity because operations typically need enormous amounts of energy on fans and high-power lamps. Such activity makes the indoor facilities major fire hazards, said Special Agent Casey McEnry with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

“We’re always just drilling to the public how dangerous these things are,” McEnry said.

McEnry said, using conservative estimates, one plant can yield a quarter-pound of “potent” marijuana and can be sold at $3,500 a pound in the San Francisco area.

According to those estimates, the discovery on Ramsell Street could be worth anywhere from $262,500 to $350,000.

San Francisco police statistics on seizures from indoor pot grows in The City were not immediately available, but last year, according to the DEA, federal agents seized 12,745 plants worth an estimated $11.1 million.

This year the DEA has not seized any plants from indoor operations in The City but agents have raided pot operations elsewhere around the Bay Area.

dsmith@examiner.com

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