May 07--TAYLORVILLE -- Firefighters responding to a blaze that destroyed a garage in Taylorville gave police a tip that led to the busting of a cannabis growing operation early Sunday.
The city fire department had been called out at 4:11 a.m to the intense fire in the 300 block of North Clay Street and noticed an adjacent garage showed signs of damage. Fire crews went inside to check it out and were met by a man described as being "nervous" and "very anxious for the firefighters to leave," according to Taylorville Police Department Deputy Chief Brian Hile.
"He had told them that he would check for damages later," Hile said. "Firefighters noticed what appeared to be a bag of cannabis lying on a table in the garage. Firefighters left the garage and requested assistance from our agency."
Police arrived promptly and questioned the 56-year-old suspect who allegedly then admitted he was running a cannabis farm from the garage. Hile described the indoor cultivation setup as "elaborate," before it was dismantled by police and hauled away.
Items seized included 19 cannabis plants and about 3.5 pounds of harvested cannabis.
The suspect was booked on preliminary charges of the manufacture and delivery of cannabis and was being held at the Christian County Correctional Center in Taylorville.
Mike Crews, the Taylorville fire chief, said he has been with the department for 22 years and can't recall a similar case of his firefighters bumping into a cannabis farm while responding to an unrelated call. "That doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but yes, it's pretty unusual," he added.
He said the fire that destroyed the garage was not connected to the cannabis farm, and its cause remained under investigation Tuesday.
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