By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A structure fire led to the discovery of a marijuana “grow house” in Orchidland Estates in Puna late last month.
Regular and volunteer units from Hawaiian Paradise Park, Pahoa and Keaau stations responded to the fire at 16-1752 34th Ave. at about noon on April 20.
“Nobody was at home at time. We are trying to determine whether it was a grow house being rented or if somebody was actually living there,” said police Lt. Burt Shimabukuro of Hilo Vice Section. “We were called in after the fire happened.”
Shimabukuro said that 424 marijuana plants 4- to 5-feet tall were recovered from several rooms in the house, as well as various items of paraphernalia associated with marijuana cultivation. No arrests have been made, but Shimabukuro said police have identified and interviewed “a person of interest” regarding the grow.
“We’re still in the process of investigating,” he said. He said that no firearms, booby traps or other weapons were found. A report was also filed on April 20 for theft of utilities at the home, according to a police log.
The structure itself doesn’t appear to be badly damaged, at least on the exterior. A front picture window was broken and soot residue from smoke could be seen on the front and one side wall on Wednesday.
The Fire Department often issues media releases following house fires, but didn’t do so in this instance. A call on Wednesday afternoon to the East Hawaii battalion chief’s office wasn’t returned by press time.
According to county property tax records, the house is owned by Grantor Avelino Trust. The taxable value of the property is listed as $139,200 with the building’s assessed value at $116,000. Records indicate that taxes haven’t been paid on the property since 2009.
“I was told there was nobody living in the house, but there was an individual who I thought lived there,” said a neighbor who asked not to be identified, citing fear for personal safety. “Vice pulled up there with a truck and started hauling (the plants) away. There were also dogs there, and the dogs were taken to the pound.”
The neighbor said that police put a lock on the gate afterwards but that somebody has since broken the lock, and described the property as “an eyesore and a safety hazard.”
“It’s kind of daunting to have the house there. There are children who walk down this street every day to and from school. Who knows how many other places there are around here where this is going on? We all know where there’s drugs, there’s guns and other things going on.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.