Firefighters discover pot operation in burning Sun Valley warehouse
Authorities on Sunday were investigating an overnight fire in a Sun Valley commercial building that authorities said contained substantial stores of marijuana. The pot operation also has become a subject of a police investigation.
The owner of a neighboring business described the adjacent tenants as friendly, but secretive and security-conscious.
The burned building, in the 8100 block of Clybourn Avenue, sits on an industrial strip about a block from a residential area. The fire call came in at 11:44 p.m. Saturday, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.
Firefighters immediately alerted police investigators when they discovered the marijuana.
“A lot of marijuana had been burned, but I’m not sure how much went up in smoke,” said Sgt. David Tomilin of the Los Angeles Police Department's Foothill Division. Officers were able to book more than 100 pounds into evidence Sunday morning.
Investigators were not yet prepared to call the operation illegal, given that marijuana for medical purposes can be grown and distributed legally.
“I don’t know if they had some kind of licensing,” said Tomilin. “It’s obviously not for personal use based on the amount. The stuff we could book was in trash cans in 30 to 40 bound bags.”
The adjacent business operator said he didn’t know precisely what was going on next door.
“I knew they weren’t operating a winery,” said James Reidy. “They were very private. And they were nice to me. The security around it was fairly tough. They had a heavy-duty door.”
An early wire-service report quoted a police investigator as saying that the fire was started by a high-wattage bulb frequently used to grow marijuana indoors. Authorities backed away from that conclusion Sunday pending further investigation. There also was no immediate report on damage to the building, but firefighters did break through the roof while battling the blaze, a fire official said.
-- Howard Blume
Photo: Fire officials examine damage after fire Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times