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Fire Tears Through SF Sunset District Home Used To Grow Marijuana

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - Firefighters battling a residential fire in San Francisco's Inner Sunset neighborhood Wednesday morning discovered a "house full of marijuana," a fire department spokeswoman said.

The two-alarm blaze was reported at 8:04 a.m. at 1767 Eighth Ave., near Moraga Street. Fire crews controlled the flames by 8:51 a.m.

A male firefighter suffered a shoulder injury when he fell backward on some stairs, and was taken to a hospital, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

Crews battling the blaze found marijuana on each of the home's three levels, Talmadge said. Marijuana plants were growing on two floors, and drying on another floor, she said.

She said the residents had altered the home's electrical system to bypass the PG&E meter, and investigators are looking into whether that caused the fire.

In addition to the marijuana, stacks of mail from various addresses were found inside the house, Talmadge said.

No one was at home when the fire started, and investigators have not yet been in contact with the residents, she said.

Two homes on either side of the house that burned sustained minor damage.

A resident of one of those homes, who declined to give his name, said new renters had moved in next door a couple of years ago, and around that time he began to smell marijuana.

"There was definitely an odor," he said. "It smelled like skunk for about two years."

The resident said he had headed to work in San Mateo this morning but turned around when his wife, who was at home with their 5-year-old daughter, called and told him the house next door was on fire.

His wife was unable to take their daughter to school because fire trucks were blocking the street, he said.

He said his house has some damage and smells smoky, but that he and his family wouldn't be displaced.

The resident said his neighbors in the rental home had some visitors occasionally but that he did not see any suspicious activity.

San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee, whose district encompasses that neighborhood, was at the scene of the fire Wednesday morning.

He said indoor marijuana grows appear to be an increasing problem in his District 7 and in District 4, which includes the Sunset neighborhood and is now represented by new Supervisor Katy Tang.

Yee said he met with a police captain recently and is researching how to combat the problem from a legislative standpoint.

"I'm trying to get a better handle on this," he said.

He said he plans to reach out to residents to raise awareness about the issue and solicit their feedback on how to approach it.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White was also at the scene.

Neighbor Susan Quihillalt, who lives across the street, was watching the activity from her window.

"We were sitting reading, having breakfast, then all of a sudden we heard sirens and they stopped in front of the house," Quihillalt said.

She said it appears the fire burned in the rear of the home where it started.

Quihillalt said she saw a firefighter being taken away on a stretcher. She said he was conscious and sitting upright.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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