Authorities stumble across a marijuana grow operation while working a fire at an empty home in east central Fresno. They're now reminding citizens to be aware of what's going in their own neighborhoods.
Officials can't confirm if people were illegally using this home to grow pot, but they do say vacant homes are increasingly becoming a hot spot for crime.
An early morning house fire at a home near Cedar and Shields, leads authorities to a sophisticated marijuana grow operation. Now, they're hoping to find who's responsible.
Fresno Fire battalion chief Chuck Tobias says, "Whoever was living or squatting in this house, they weren't here when we arrived on scene."
Next door neighbor Lenea McGuire says she smelled marijuana throughout the neighborhood, but never thought much of it. She also says whoever was staying at the home, never stayed very long.
"No one really just stays all night in the house. They just come usually in the morning and they're gone," says McGuire.
Neighbor Dalia Romero says, "Nobody has really been here. Just a couple people I've seen off and on."
Officials don't know whether people were renting the property, or if the home was vacant and had been broken into it.
Tobias says, "With the downturn in the economic environment that we had here in the city of Fresno, there's a lot of homes that went under and that are vacant and it's an ideal opportunity for someone who wants to do illegal activities."
"I worry because I have a family too. I have three kids," says Jose Lubano.
Jose Lubano lives across the street from a home that's been vacant for seven months. Hes says it's an open invitation to squatters and problems.
"The owner came last weeks and said people have been breaking in to grow marijuana at night."
Authorities say it's best to always be on the lookout.
"If you have individuals that appear to be over secretive about their lives or they come and go at all hours, it doesn't mean they're doing anything inappropriate but it should raise a red flag," says Fresno Fire captain Lawrence French.
McGuire says she's thankful this morning's fire wasn't worse, and from now on she'll trust her instincts and report anything suspicious.
"If it happens again, wherever else I'm living in the future, yes I'd call."
Fire officials don't know if this grow was against the law or in compliance with Fresno city ordinance. Fresno police will have to investigate further.
Authorities say it appears an overload of the equipment used in the marijuana grow caused an electrical fire in the attic of the home.