Marijuana found growing at site of fire in Winton

abutt@mercedsunstar.comMay 23, 2012 

WINTON -- A fire that started at an abandoned house and spread to trailers filled with old tires sent a column of thick black smoke billowing into sky before Cal Fire crews contained the blaze Wednesday afternoon.

The agency said the blaze jumped from the single-story structure in the 5800 block of Eucalyptus Avenue to an adjacent 10-acre field.

In addition to the house, the fire burned several cars stored nearby and multiple marijuana plants growing in the area.

It took 20 firefighters using 10 pieces of equipment to contain the blaze, which started around 11 a.m.

Fire officials haven't determined what caused the blaze.

No injuries were reported.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, spokesman for the Merced County Sheriff's Department, said deputies would contact the owners and make sure they were in compliance with laws regarding the marijuana plants on the property.

"If it's illegal growth, or nobody wants to claim it, we will eradicate it," he said, "because we don't want to leave it there."

He said the Sheriff's Department wasn't going to proceed until Cal Fire finished its investigation.

The fire burned between five and six acres of land, according to Capt. Robert Delarosa.

Strong winds contributed to the fire's spread, he said.

A resident who rents the property said the fire burned through two trailers of discarded tires. He said the trailers had been on the site for quite some time.

Winton resident Rebekah Finn was working on her shed on Bronson Street when she saw the fire across the field from her home.

She watched as the fire quickly spread from the house to the field, igniting the tire-filled trailers and sending the thick black smoke into the air.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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