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St. Pete firefighters respond to electrical fire, find marijuana grow operation

ST. PETERSBURG – There was a fire in Gaetano Rodriguez's room, authorities said, but he wouldn't let firefighters in.

They broke down the door and soon learned why.

The emergency responders stumbled onto a marijuana grow operation, according to St. Petersburg police. Rodriguez, 27, was keeping between 75 and 100 potted marijuana plants inside a room near his attic, police said.

At first he told officers he was cultivating the plants for medicinal use. Then he admitted to growing the drug for sale, police said.

Rodriguez faces several charges including cultivation of marijuana and obstructing firefighters.

The crews responded to a call for an electrical fire in the home at 727 54th Ave. N about 6:30 p.m. Monday, police said. Rodriguez rents the house from his father.

The fire was very small, said Lt. Joel Granata, spokesman for St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. Rodriguez had several extension cords running around the room, he said. The operation overloaded the cords, causing them to smolder.

Rodriguez was taken to the Pinellas County Jail and released on $7,300 bail.