Thursday, April 21, 2011
A passerby noticed a second-floor window sill was on fire, and summoned the Fire Department. Columbia Police responded to the address along with Columbia Fire Departments to assist with traffic control and possible evacuation of neighboring buildings.
While Fire personnel were inside the building, they noticed multiple building code violations. As such, Fire personnel summoned Columbia Police personnel inside for further investigation. Police made contact with the building owner and occupants, and explained that Columbia Borough Code Officer Jeff Helm would be responding to the building for further inspection. After notifying the owner of this, Police continued coordinating Helm's response with the Fire Department. Unbeknownst to Police, the building owner and its occupants left the scene after being advised of this, and could not be located.
As the Fire Department personnel continued to check the building for the presence of fire, they discovered a marijuana grow operation being conducted on the third and fourth floors of the residence. Police were summoned to this area of the building, and found approximately 10-12 pounds of loose harvested marijuana in bags, and approximately 60-70 mature marijuana plants being grown. This area was immediately secured for investigation. Due to the nature and severity of the code violations throughout the building, it was condemned through the Columbia Borough Codes Office.
Police were able to identify the building owner and its occupants before they left the scene, and all belong to the same family. The investigation is ongoing at this time.