This past weekend, a fatal fire blazed through a building in South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Fire Department stated that firefighters were dispatched to 832 East Manchester Avenue in South L.A.’s Green Meadows neighborhood at just after one in the morning on February 10th. Their response was regarding a car fire that quickly expanded to a structure fire in, what was presumed, an abandoned building.

By the time responders arrived on the scene, the deadly fire heavily consumed the building and had caused the roof to collapse, which was confirmed by LAFD. Authorities believe the structure possibly housed an illegal “cannabis operation.”

In the past few years, California laws around the use of cannabis have been changing. With the recent activation of Assembly Bill 2188, which prohibits employers from using marijuana test results from both urine and hair screening, navigating the cannabis legal playground requires education. 

Currently, the Golden State allows residents to personally grow up to 6 cannabis plants within the grounds of their private residence as long as they are over 21. Residents who choose to grow marijuana must keep the plants in a locked space and invisible to the public; however, if the plants are being grown as a product, volatile solvents like butane or propane are banned from being used. While it is legal to grow cannabis within your private residence for personal use, California does have laws around producing the plant for sale. 

Without obtaining state and local licenses, it is illegal for residents growing the plant to sell any amount of it. The state’s concern lies partly with the intense danger that comes with producing cannabis for profit, as unstable chemicals like butane, a commonly used solvent known for producing potent forms of the plant, have caused property damage and even death for those trying to manufacture concentrated forms of cannabis at home. 

While the Californian landscape has changed in recent years since voters approved a broader legal marketplace for cannabis, illegal home-growers unfortunately still threaten California’s attempts at a stronger and more user-friendly economy—not to mention posing threats to their own lives. This has caused some state-legal cannabis companies to simultaneously work the legal and illicit markets to stay afloat, constantly trying to survive legally against a thriving illegal market.

So, when responders showed up at 832 East Manchester Avenue this past weekend, it was hard to share for sure whether or not the structure contained an illegal growing operation—but officials did verify that the building had a cannabis growth operation inside. LAFD Captain, Adam Van Gerpen, stated, “We can’t say for sure because we don’t know exactly what permits they had… but we did not see any placarding from the outside that would indicate that this was a cannabis operation.” With various types of chemicals that can be used when growing cannabis, some of these chemicals can be explosive, “and have deadly results,” says Gerpen. 

Unfortunately, the exact cause of the fire is unknown, and with more than 110 firefighters on the scene, the deadly fire was extinguished in just over an hour. Law enforcement officials revealed that first responders had found a man dead inside the building, and their systematic search continues to ensure no other victims were inside what was believed to be an abandoned building.