WAIPIO (HawaiiNewsNow) - A fire call in Waipio early Monday quickly evolved into a criminal probe after authorities say they discovered more than 100 marijuana plants growing inside the burning home.
Sources say there was an elaborate pot-growing setup inside the house on Polinahe Place. Fire officials say the tenants had to alter the electrical wiring to meet the energy demands of the operation, and that did them in.
Emergency vehicles crammed onto a normally-peaceful street in Waipio just before 1:00 AM, after fire broke out at a rental house.
"I was kind of concerned, you know what I mean, because I'd hate for that to be a blaze and come to my house," Henry Ege, neighbor, said.
Fire officials say there were alterations made to an electrical panel that caused the wiring to overheat.
"The source of the fire was seeming to come from the electrical meter, which then worked its way up to the garage attic space and where fire crews were able to extinguish it at that point," Capt. Carlton Yamada, Honolulu Fire Department, said.
Crews looking for occupants in the home didn't find any, but stumbled upon something else instead. Police say there were more than 100 marijuana plants in different stages of growth. Many of them were more than three-feet tall.
Neighbors had no idea.
"That kind of surprised me because I never expected that in my neighborhood," Ege said. "But I guess you can have drugs growing in any neighborhood."
Officers described it as one of the more sophisticated indoor marijuana growing operations they've seen, saying there was an irrigation system, air filters and lamps. Police say they removed about six van loads of evidence from the three-bedroom house.
A woman who identified herself as the sister of the home owner declined comment. The manager of the rental would only say that the tenants are new, having moved in just last month.
"I've never seen them," Ege said about the tenants. "All I know is that somebody moved out and I never knew, they were fixing the house on the inside, but I never know who moved in."
Police say it's not unusual for pot growers to rent a house specifically for that purpose and not actually live there. So far, no one's been arrested in the case, which is classified as first-degree commercial promotion of marijuana.
The small fire caused an estimated $10,000 in damages.
If you suspect drug activity in your neighborhood, call the HPD Narcotics-Vice Division tip line at 529-3101.