Authorities are investigating why an alleged marijuana grower arrested after a Novato house fire had a supply of police-style "raid" jackets, Department of Justice radios and a voluminous stash of ammunition.
Rory Mark Ward, 58, of San Rafael was arrested last week in the aftermath of a fire at 1813 Marion Ave. in Novato. Investigators said the home, whose owner is listed as Ward, contained an indoor marijuana growing operation with an illegal bypass of a Pacific Gas and Electric line.
That led investigators to two San Rafael properties owned by Ward, said sheriff's Sgt. Pierre Ahuncain of the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force. One of the properties is on Oakmont Avenue in the San Rafael Hill area, the other is on Mount Darwin Court in Lucas Valley.
Both San Rafael properties had evidence of bypassed power lines and dismantled marijuana operations, Ahuncain said.
When investigators arrested Ward in San Rafael, they searched his car and found a police-style raid jacket, the Department of Justice radios and thousands of rounds of ammunition of various calibers, Ahuncain said.
Investigators found three more raid jackets at the home on Oakmont Avenue. Ahuncain said the jackets were blue and had cloth patches that said "special agent," "police," "department of justice" and "BNE," the acronym for state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.
Investigators also found a small amount of cocaine and a 37mm flare launcher designed to be attached to an assault weapon, Ahuncain said. No guns were found.
The investigation is continuing. Ahuncain said the Department of Justice does not discard or sell its radios.
Ward was booked into Marin County Jail on allegations of marijuana cultivation and theft of utility services. He posted bail pending further review by prosecutors.
No charges had been filed as of Wednesday.
The fire on Marion Avenue, which caused an estimated $105,000 in damage, "resulted from improper use of electrical wiring and equipment," said Battalion Chief Bill Tyler, the Novato fire marshal.
"The apparent mechanism of ignition was a catastrophic failure and arcing of the non-permitted electrical wiring in the basement, originating from the illegal power tap," Tyler said. "This main electrical cable failed at a location where the wire was hung by a pair of nails.
"The materials first ignited were wood, cardboard, paper and other common stored combustibles that were left in a disorderly fashion on the floor underneath the arcing wires."
Ward, an electrician, is the proprietor of Rortech Electric in San Rafael. He and the business have been licensed since 1986, according to the Contractors State License Board.
Novato firefighters on top of the roof to ventilate a working structure fire at 1813 Marion Ave in Novato, Calif., on Monday, March 11, 2013. (IJ photo/Robert Tong) Robert Tong
Ward could not be reached for comment Wednesday.