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Barn fire burned hemp uniforms, not pot plants
January 06, 2006, 12:00 AM By Dana Yates
It wasn’t a patch of marijuana plants burning in a Woodside barn this week — it was a collection of antique war uniforms.

Firefighters alerted police when they smelled burning marijuana at a two-alarm fire reported early Monday morning  in the 100 block of Marva Oaks Drive. It took crews 45 minutes to extinguish the fire in the 5,100-square-foot barn, which destroyed everything inside. What they didn’t know was the barn was packed with old military uniforms made of hemp.

Yesterday, state and local investigators visited the site of the burned barn, only to find piles of destroyed war memorabilia. The items belonged to the barn’s owner, an elderly man who earned the name "souvenir” more than 50 years ago for his tendency to collect anything and everything.

The uniforms date back to the 1930s and 1940s, when hemp was legal. The uniforms represent a fraction of war memorabilia lost in the barn fire. Mortar shells were also found during the fire and led officials to call out the San Mateo County Bomb Squad Monday. The bomb squad determined the mortar shells were inactive, but police called military personnel to the scene yesterday in case they found any other ammunition while searching through the wreckage, said Capt. Don O’Keefe, of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

No other ammunition was found, O’Keefe said.

Even the cause of the fire appears less sinister than originally thought.

"It looks like it may have been electrical,” O’Keefe said.

Fire inspectors are still trying to confirm their suspicions that the fire started at an electrical outlet or light bulb socket in the barn.


Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: dana@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: letters@smdailyjournal.com.<


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