Cobbs Creek house fire leads to marijuana bust

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Apr 24, 2013 - 02:25 PM

Photo: A Tuesday afternoon fire at this residence on Buckley Hall Road in Cobbs Creek led to the discovery of a marijuana operation and the arrest of its owner on drug charges. Photo by Bill Nachman

A Tuesday afternoon fire at this residence on Buckley Hall Road in Cobbs Creek led to the discovery of a marijuana operation and the arrest of its owner on drug charges. Photo by Bill Nachman

Photo: Mathews County Sheriff Mark Barrick displays the marijuana seized after Tuesday afternoon’s house fire in Cobbs Creek. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Mathews County Sheriff Mark Barrick displays the marijuana seized after Tuesday afternoon’s house fire in Cobbs Creek. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

A house fire at Cobbs Creek on Tuesday afternoon led to the discovery of a large marijuana growing operation and the arrest of the homeowner on drug charges.

Sheriff Mark Barrick said that his office had received information on the homeowner, Kenneth M. Putt, 48, of 2722 Buckley Hall Road, Cobbs Creek, earlier this year and had done several surveillance operations on his house but hadn’t been able to charge him with anything.

But when Putt decided to burn weeds around the foundation of his house with a blow torch, said Barrick, "he just happened to bring it together for us."

The action, which was observed by witnesses, apparently set the house on fire, said Barrick, and the fire department was called to respond at 1:08 p.m. When they made entry to the house through an upper window, he said, firefighters discovered what they believed to be marijuana, and they called the sheriff’s office to investigate.

Barrick said that after the fire was out, the sheriff’s office took control of the home, obtained a search warrant, and contacted other members of the Middle Peninsula Drug Task Force to help with processing the crime scene and collecting evidence.

What they found was one of the most sophisticated operations the task force had ever seen, said Barrick. He said the entire second floor of the house was taken up by a hydroponic growing system, with ventilation, lighting, heating, and extensive use of PVC pipe.