Jan 192013

When the Fresno Police Department decided that patients growing medical cannabis outdoors was a threat to public health and safety, the City Council signed off on an outdoor cultivation ban. What the FPD didn’t tell the City Council was that indoor cannabis cultivation can create equal or greater threats to public health and safety, including marijuana house fires caused by overloaded electrical and lighting systems.

The latest Fresno house fire caused by cannabis cultivation was reported on New Year’s Day by KSEE-24. Fire officials told the station that overloaded equipment used to grow marijuana grow caused an electrical fire in the attic of the home. KMPH-26 reported that two adults and several children living at the home got out safely.

In August 2012, a Fresno man received a 10-year federal prison sentence for his involvement with marijuana grow houses in Fresno and Mendocino counties. Xi A. “Andy” Lieng was convicted of drug conspiracy and growing marijuana in a case involving five houses obtained through mortgage fraud.

According to a DOJ press release on the Fresno marijuana grow house conspiracy, “Fresno firefighters discovered the indoor cultivation of marijuana at one of the houses on Villa Avenue in southeast Fresno when a fire broke out as a result of the unlawful diversion of electricity. The firefighters contacted the Fresno Police Department, who handed the case over to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department for investigation. Narcotics detectives found 862 marijuana plants at the property. Detectives were then able to link the Villa property with another residence on Donner Avenue in northwest Fresno where they found 973 marijuana plants and similarly diverted electrical wiring.”

During sentencing, “Judge O’Neill also considered the public safety hazard posed by unsafe electrical wiring at several of the residences involved in the cultivation operation and the potential for psychological and emotional trauma on neighbors, who were awakened by flames and smoke at the Villa residence.” In related court action, one of Lieng’s brothers received prison time and was ordered to pay restitution for “another grow house on Everglade in Fresno that was damaged as a result of a fire caused by the unlawful diversion of electricity.”

In April 2012, police were called after a fire broke out at a Fresno home with about 100 cannabis plants growing indoors, abc30 reports. The fire, which police at the time called suspicious, was contained to a PG&E meter outside the house.

In August 2010, Fresno firefighters found “two bedrooms full of pot” after responding to an attic fire, abc30 reports, prompting them to call police.

In July 2010, Fresno police found evidence of utility theft and unsafe wiring at an indoor marijuana garden during execution of a search warrant, abc30 reports.

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