PITTSBURG -- Modified electrical circuitry and wiring for an illegal marijuana grow operation sparked a two-alarm fire early Friday morning that destroyed a new home on the western end of the city, fire officials said.

Contra Costa firefighters responded shortly after 1 a.m. to a home on the 2600 block of Tampico Drive, where they found the attic and second floor ablaze. A second alarm was called to help fight the fire, as a collapsed roof and ceiling prevented crews from searching inside, fire investigator Vic Massenkoff said.

It took about 80 minutes and 35 firefighters to control the fire, officials said. No one was injured by the blaze.

Fire investigators and Pittsburg police are still investigating, including trying to track down the home's owner. The illegal wiring, which was set up to bypass the meter, likely caused the fire, police and fire officials said.

The home, built in late 2012, is a total loss, with the damage estimated at $400,000. The home had fire sprinklers, but its water supply was shut off at the valve, Massenkoff said.

Police recovered "a decent portion of the plants that weren't burned," Lt. Ron Raman said. All told, they recovered about 100 mature plants and about 200 smaller plants.

The home was unoccupied, though a caretaker may have stayed there on occasion, Raman said.


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Hash oil labs and illegal marijuana grow houses are becoming common throughout the county, Contra Costa fire officials said Friday. About 35 have been identified in the county Fire District's jurisdiction in the past two years, Massenkoff said.

More often than not, newer tract homes are being used and catching fire in the same manner. The "hot tap" into electrical service is meant to keep the grow homes "off the radar because of their usage," Massenkoff said.

Earlier this month, police seized 960 marijuana plants and cultivating equipment from a two-story home in Antioch following a fire. That Jan. 14 fire began in a wall behind a fuse box where wiring had been installed to bypass detection by any utility company, officials said.

Anyone with information about the Pittsburg fire can call police at 925-646-2441. Callers can remain anonymous.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.