Fire reveals East County marijuana grow

Police recover 215 plants of various sizes on 156th

Firefighters discovered 215 marijuana plants of various sizes while fighting a house fire in East County.

The fire started at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 3432 S.E. 156th Ave. Portland firefighters found the plants in the garage and bedrooms of the unoccupied house, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, Portland police spokesman.

Initially, firefighters thought the house might be booby trapped because growers who use vacant houses often set traps to protect their product, Schmautz said. However, the house wasn't.

The occupants also were stealing electricity by diverting it away from the meter that tracks usage, Schmautz said.

'Marijuana growers sometimes do that because high electricity use is an indication of a marijuana grow,' Schmautz said.

Portland General Electric officials estimate that about $800 worth of electricity was stolen each month to operate the 24 1,000-watt bulbs and fans recovered at the scene.

Damage estimates are not yet available and the fire's cause is still under investigation. But Schmautz said fires at marijuana grows are typically due to bypassing the meter to steal electricity, overloaded lines and hot bulbs.

Portland's drug and vice division is still investigating the fire and investigators have not named any suspects.