An illegal million-dollar pot farm went up in smoke Saturday morning after a two-alarm fire ripped through an East New York building.
Firefighters responded to the blaze that broke out at around 10:15 am on Oct. 17 inside what they believed to be an abandoned two-story building at 3232 Fulton St., but they soon discovered that the structure was “heavily fortified” with wood, sheet rock and metal.
When firefighters entered the second floor, they found 70 marijuana plants complete with grow lights, chemical fertilizers and hose lines designed to provide water to the plants — some of which were seven feet tall.
Officials said the total stash could be worth nearly one million dollars on the street.
Investigators believe the fire may have started in the basement, and may have been due to the pot farmers’ jumping the electrical meter to avoid paying for the large amounts of electric used to power the high-intensity grow lights.
Fire officials said the blaze was difficult to extinguish due to heavy debris on the first floor and basement and a special air filtration equipment that blocked some of the building’s hallways.
One investigator said neighbors had recently reported sporadic electrical problems, including brown outs that no one could explain.
The fire was deemed under control in about 90 minutes, according to fire officials.
“There were no people living here, it was just being used to grow marijuana,” a police official said.
One detective added, “There were plants from one end of the second floor to the other. They were running a lot of power.”
Residents watched as police gathered outside the building. One man, who didn’t want to be identified, said he thought the building was vacant.
“Someone’s going to be very unhappy – there’s gotta be about $20,000 in equipment alone in there to grow that,” said the man standing across watching. “You know, people gotta make a living and with there being not too many jobs, this is it. They should just make it legal.”
The owner of the building next door, Tamara Partouch, said she had no idea what was going on inside.
“There was a drug lab over here, right next to my building,” said Partouch. “Two years ago, I had a squatter in my place, and they were growing it here so we called the police because they were selling it – they probably moved there.”
Her tenant, Katherine Delgado, said she was working at the time of the fire and she was upset that her apartment was damaged.
“[Partouch] called me to see what was happening, I hope my stuff is okay on the second floor,” said Delgado. “I’m only living here one month and I didn’t know what was going on because I was working. I don’t know what to think.”
Officers from the 75th Precinct were working throughout the afternoon, bagging large garbage bags with the greenery. Police filled up an entire van, and were not halfway finished, they said.
“I don’t know if it is all going to fit – I hope so,” an officer said.
The Department of Buildings also slapped a vacate order on the building and agency officials said they were prepared to issue other fines when the owner is located.
Illegal pot farms have resulted in dangerous fires across the city in recent years, one of which resulted in a Fire Department official’s death.
In 2017, police raided a pot farm in the Bronx and took millions of dollars worth of marijuana. In 2016, a pot farm in the Bronx exploded, killing an FDNY chief and injuring 20. The farmers were later convicted of manslaughter for creating the dangerous conditions with chemical fertilizers and illegal wiring.
In 2010, a pot farm on Miller Avenue, blocks from Saturday’ blaze, also went up in smoke because of faulty wiring. No injuries occurred in that fire where dozens of plants were found.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.