Sonoma County house fire may have been caused by hash-oil lab

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) -- The cause of a fire that destroyed a home near Santa Rosa Wednesday morning is still undetermined, but sources tell KTVU investigators are looking to see whether there was a possible hash-oil operation at the house.

The fire broke out at 10:30 a.m., engulfing and ultimately destroying the home on Ramondo Drive outside Santa Rosa in unincorporated Sonoma County.

Neighbor Jeff Griffeath ran out and shot video of the fire. He said he heard popping noises.

"I heard a couple of explosions," said Griffeath. "First I thought they were gunshots. Then I saw a house on fire. The explosions kept going sporadically."

Three people lived at the home, a couple and their toddler. They were not hurt, but three of their cats were killed and another was missing.

"It seemed to spread quite rapidly, From the time it was first seen to when firefighters arrived, it spread rapidly," said Rincon Fire Protection District Investigator Cyndi Foreman.

Once the fire was out, the unmistakable smell of marijuana was hard to miss coming from the home.

The man who lived in the house was detained in the back of a sheriff's department van for more than an hour. He was later taken away in an ambulance.

Wednesday afternoon, detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department were seen carrying out boxes of possible evidence.

Officially, the cause of the fire is under investigation. But sources said they saw evidence of a possible hash oil manufacturing operation including a quantity of marijuana leaves and what appear to be butane canisters, which are highly flammable and could explain the explosions.

Fire officials said they haven't determined whether or not there was a drug lab here.

"Explosions were heard, but that doesn't mean that is what they were. We are looking at that," said Forman.

Neighbors said the people who lived in the house were renters who had been there less than a year.