A fire at a mechanic's garage in East Oakland turned up a sizable indoor pot grow Thursday, but neighbors said that police made it easy for someone to steal the marijuana just hours after it was discovered.
The one-alarm fire at 1232 51st Ave., located near East 12th Street, was reported at 4:17 a.m., according to fire officials.
Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control by 4:38 a.m.
They notified police after discovering a sizable grow operation with 65-70 mature marijuana plants.
Police told KTVU they couldn't seize the plants when they were initially found because authorities didn't know if the site was an illegal grow.
Police said they boarded up the building, but that didn't stop people who wanted what was left behind.
A few hours later after police and fire were gone, neighbors told KTVU unknown men returned in several vehicles and made off with the marijuana plants that had been left behind.
One man seen on the street who only gave his first name as David, told KTVU he's one of a few mechanics who work on cars at the garage. He said he didn’t know who the pot belonged to.
He came back to board up the building again after he said thieves easily removed plywood police used to cover a doorway Thursday morning.
"They only put two nails in the boarding! Not even long nails, like masonry nails. I think it's a shame that the city of Oakland and OPD would -- after an emergency -- just let people be vulnerable like that," said David. "Wide open to be picked clean."
Several neighbors said it didn't take long for people to break into the property once police and firefighters were gone.
"They stay maybe between five and ten minutes," said area resident Alma Piedras. "After, I just locked the door. Everybody was gone."
Oakland police wouldn't talk to KTVU on camera, but said they were never contacted about the break-in.
They said it remained unclear whether the marijuana was illegal or being legitimately grown for medicinal purposes.
Based on what firefighters saw Thursday morning, authorities didn't seem to think they were dealing with a legitimate operation.
"[There were] numerous wires hanging from the ceiling," said Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker. "There's a lot of illegal marijuana, possibly, in there, due to the illegal wiring that's going on."
The people KTVU found on the property Thursday would only say the owner was out of town.
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