Schenectady County

Cops say pot growing operation started Rotterdam fire

A Rotterdam man was arrested on felony endangering charges after police said his marijuana growing o
Occupants of a house that caught fire embrace as a Rotterdam police officer talks with the owner of the home on Helderberg Avenue in Rotterdam, after flames damaged her home Tuesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Occupants of a house that caught fire embrace as a Rotterdam police officer talks with the owner of the home on Helderberg Avenue in Rotterdam, after flames damaged her home Tuesday.

A man was arrested on felony endangering charges after police said his marijuana growing operation ignited an attic fire that seriously damaged the roof of a Helderberg Avenue home.

Earl J. Simard, 33, of 1924 Helderberg Ave., was arraigned on a first-degree reckless endangerment charge Tuesday and was ordered held without bail. Investigators believe his marijuana cultivating lights were responsible for touching off the fire, which left seven people – including four young children – homeless.

Firefighters investigating the blaze found a cultivating system that used numerous electronic high-heat lights and space heaters. Police took Simard into custody after a brief investigation.

The fire was first reported around 1:55 p.m., when Rotterdam dispatchers received numerous 911 calls indicating people trapped in a burning house. Upon arrival, crews from Rotterdam Fire District 2 found smoke pouring from the roof vents of the two-story brick house.

All of the home’s residents were able to flee the burning building before fire crews arrived. One woman sustained a minor cut, but refused medical attention.

Crews were able to get the blaze under control about 10 minutes after they arrived, but battled stubborn hot spots in the roof for nearly an hour.

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