Midtown fire investigation turns into drug probe

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ATLANTA - Investigators found marijuana plants growing inside a unit at a midtown apartment complex while assisting with a fire that displaced six families on Sunday morning.

Fire crews said a space heater started the fire at the Victory Group Apartments on Peachtree Place at about 3 a.m.

A resident, who told Channel 2's Amanda Cook he only wanted to be identified as Sam, said he owned the space heater that started the fire.

"Just a space heater; every year I hear about them, and this year it was me," Sam told Cook at the scene.

Sam's belongings are now charred and scattered on the ground outside of the broken window of his apartment.

"First units arrived on the scene. There was a fire reported on unit 6 on the first floor," Atlanta Fire Batallion Chief Bryant Tate said.

Sam said he noticed the smell and then saw the flames.

"I just ran and got everyone else out. Forgot my wallet and my glasses and everything else," Sam said.

"I just heard people banging on the door screaming, 'Help.' That's all I could hear and when I opened the door, it was just pitch black dark," resident Brittany Watkins said.

But as first responders also made sure everyone was out safely, they made a huge discovery in one of the units: marijuana plants growing in buckets.

As Atlanta police brought it out, some of the nearby residents laughed over the find. Not Sam, though. He explained his wife of 40 years ago passed away three years ago and now every memento, every sentimental treasure from their life together was gone.

Even the cash she used to keep hidden in spots here and there.

"It's Christmas time. He's been through a lot. His wife passed away and all her memories are in the house. It's just a total loss," Tate said.

"This was God's way of telling me to get out of there and move on because I wasn't going to do it on my own. Now I (have to) move," Sam said.

The Red Cross is assisting eight adults and two children were displaced in the fire.

Investigators have not said if an arrest has been made for the marijuana plants.