When flames began lapping up dried grass blades in Springfiled late Sunday afternoon, fire fighters got a reading on a thermal imager that indicated the fire had likely reached a home.

But when responders entered that residence on Meadow View Road, they didn t find a fire they found a marijuana grow operation.

And it was complete, said Parker County Sheriff s Deputy Deani Hussman. A complete irrigation system, grow lights, timers, previously cultivated marijuana.

In reality, the fire started at about 5 p.m. in an outdoor burn barrel and quickly grew out of control. It spread to the grass then reached a barn and began its creep toward the home. Fire fighters contained the blaze before it reached the residence.

In these exigent circumstances, as Hussman called it, fire fighters can enter a home if they find a thermal reading that shows a heat source. It could be a fire, she said, and if left alone, the potential for damage escalates. She said firefighters were likely trying to avoid a large-scale wildfire.

And so imagine their surprise when they found an illegal grow operation.

They were gonna go in and extinguish it, the deputy said. Of course we did not expect to find 24 large plants and 17 small ones.

Hussman said the sheriff s department was called and deputies began snapping photographs of the evidence, which, as she said, included 24 large plants, 17 smaller ones and at least 1.5 ounces of dried, cultivated marijuana. There was also construction underway at the home that deputies suspect was to expand the operation.

The occupant, William Joseph McCue, 26, implicated himself in tending to the marijuana grow operation, read a release sent out Monday morning. He was charged with possession of marijuana and arrested. However, additional charges are pending.

Hussman said investigators could only charge him with possession at the time because he was merely an occupant of the home, not its owner. He was released on $2,000 bond at 12: 19 p.m. Monday.

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