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Explosion, fire bring crews to home, pot operation found

Morning Journal/Deanne Johnson Columbiana firefighter Bill Opsitnik comes out of the basement, where authorities recovered 48 marijuana plants following a fire on Tuesday.

COLUMBIANA — Firefighters from at least five departments responded to a state Route 558 home following an explosion and fire at about noon Tuesday, which led to the seizure of marijuana.

One of the residents of the home was transported by ambulance following the blast. The home is owned by John Arsuffi, who lives there with his wife, Sheriff Brian McLaughlin said.

Firefighters from Columbiana and Leetonia entered the home, sitting back a lane, to discover not only smoke coming from the basement area but also a marijuana growing operation.

McLaughlin said the county Drug Task Force obtained a warrant and removed 48 marijuana plants and grow lights from the home. Members of the sheriff’s office were there to assist the DTF.

Charges are pending.

The cause of the explosion is being investigated by the state fire marshal’s office.

Besides Columbiana and Leetonia, other fire department tanker trucks from New Waterford, East Palestine, Lisbon and Beaver Township were bringing water to where a holding tank was set up out on state Route 558. This necessitated the closure of the road on both ends by the state highway patrol.

The house is located on the edge of Fairfield and Salem townships south of Columbiana.

Arsuffi, 63, is already facing legal trouble, charged with nine counts of felony cruelty to companion animals charges. He is scheduled to be in court on Friday afternoon for a pretrial for those charges, which allege seven dogs were found dead from apparent starvation while another two dogs were found emaciated on his property on Jan. 8.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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