A basement fire led firefighters to a massive marijuana garden Saturday night.
The FDNY stumbled upon the operation when responding to a Bronx basement fire shortly before midnight. Firefighters contacted police after making the startling find. A source told the New York Daily News that authorities removed 17 garbage bags of marijuana from the house.
Residents temporarily evacuated as firefighters vented marijuana smoke from the building. According to the New York Post, the suspected grow house was located feet away from a daycare.
Building superintendent Alberto Martinez, 65, was arrested and charged with possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana and criminal sale of marijuana. The NYPD reportedly took several people in for questioning.
FDNYalerts BX ALL HANDS 2131 CHATTERTON AVE, PRIVATE DWELLING FIRE IN BASEMENT, UNDER CONTROL
— FDNYalerts (@FDNYAlerts) March 26, 2017
Authorities claimed Martinez had access to the basement and first floor of the building. The plants were supposedly located on those two floors, WABC reported. The 65-year-old was located at the property’s rear door and placed under arrest.
Police told News 12 they suspected the plants were grown in the basement and packaged upstairs. Neighbor Juan Hernandez, 82, told the Post that he’s shocked by the discovery:
“Here? That’s surprising. I lived here for 46 years. I did not know that was going on down there. I would always see two to three people in front of the building. I said ‘Hi,’ they said ‘Hi,’and I kept walking. I never smelled marijuana coming from the basement.”
Another neighbor, who wished to be anonymous, supposedly told the Daily News that he’s also surprised Martinez was possibly running a pot operation.
“They were real down low with it,” he said. “They didn’t dress flashy, no cars. Someone like that around here usually has something to show for it.”
He also pointed out that the apartment “smelled like straight skunk.”
The fire caused no structural damage or injuries.