Whatcom firefighters make unexpected discovery in Maple Falls house fire

Whatcom County Fire District No. 14 made an unexpected discovery Thursday when it was called out to a residential structure fire in Maple Falls.

"We were dispatched to it when a neighbor saw smoke coming from the chimney," Chief Jerry Debruin said of the 10:44 a.m. call to 6281 Music Place. "When we got there, we found it was smoking pretty heavily."

Inside, they found something the owners were likely hoping to hold off lighting up for a while.

"The house had been converted to a grow operation — a pretty sophisticated and advanced one," Debruin said. "It was impressive, but it's something that is still illegal here."

Debruin said the Whatcom County Fire Marshall and Sheriff's Office have taken over investigation.

As for the fire, Debruin said his crews were able to knock it down quickly, and neighbors told them nobody was home.

"It was one of those where we got there and it took us a few minutes to get water on it, and it changed quite a bit," Debruin said. "If it had time to vent, it would have taken off. Fortunately we got there when we did."

The Sheriff's Office couldn't be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.