The Bronx had its own real-life “Up in Smoke” drama that would’ve done Cheech and Chong proud.
Firefighters were called out just before midnight to battle a basement blaze in a Bronx home on Chatterton Avenue near Olmstead Avenue. According to police, the firefighters stumbled upon a nice-sized marijuana operation while there.
The flames were tackled. But, locals say they could smell smoldering cannabis up and down the street for hours after the fire was out.
After the blaze was out, firefighters informed the NYPD that they’d found a marijuana operation and the community smelled like burning cannabis. They also noted that the “forest worth of pot plants” was located right down the street from a day care center.
In all, 17 garbage bags full of marijuana were removed from the Bronx home by cops, says a police source.
Police arrested 65-year-old Alberto Martinez, and charged him with criminal possession of marijuana.
Officers took several people in for questioning, officials said, including one tearful woman who was returned to the home in a squad car. She packed a bag, sat on the stoop and wept while waiting for a ride.
Residents including children from a neighboring apartment building were evacuated as firefighters worked to put out the pungent vapor.
The Magical School Bus day care is located three doors down from the alleged grow house.
“It’s crazy,” said staffer Samantha Johnson. “Most of our kids live on the block.”
She never suspected any nefarious activity at the home.
“Nothing that would raise any eyebrows,” she said, “just regular comings and goings.”
A neighbor who lives two doors down and has lived on the block for four years said that Ramirez lived in the apartment with about five or six other people, including a six-year-old boy he believed may have been his grandson.
He described a constant crowd in and around the apartment, including cars that would double park for visitors to drop in and out.
Still, the neighbor, who declined to give his name, was surprised that Ramirez was selling drugs out of the apartment, noting the family appeared to be poor.
“They were real down low with it,” he said. “They didn’t dress flashy, no cars. Someone like that around here usually has something to show for it.”
But the apartment “smelled like straight skunk,” he added.
His mother was equally surprised, noting she donated clothing after they asked for help for their family members in the Dominican Republic affected by Hurricane Matthew.