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Former Natrona fire hall packed with marijuana-growing equipment

| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 12:07 p.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Harrison Township Police inventory the equipment from a large marijuana growing operation inside the old Natrona fire hall on River Avenue during a raid in Harrison on Sunday evening, Jan. 19, 2014.

Harrison police confiscated thousands of dollars worth of equipment on Sunday from a marijuana-growing operation in the former Natrona fire hall.

The building's owner, James Kubla, 35, of Harrison, will be arraigned Monday on drug-related charges in connection to the hydroponic operation along River Avenue, police said.

Kubla has been in the Allegheny County Jail since Saturday, when police arrested him for a domestic dispute in his River Avenue home.

Patrolman Floyd “Bucky” Taraszewski said police received information following Kubla's arrest that he was using the fire hall to grow “large amounts” of marijuana.

After obtaining a search warrant through District Judge Carolyn Bengel's office, police searched the fire hall at about 4 p.m. Sunday. A small bag of marijuana and a garbage bag full of the plant's leaves were discovered among hundreds of items used for a “flow grow” operation, Taraszewski said.

“It was a very elaborate and sophisticated irrigation system,” he said. “It's the largest one I've ever seen.”

Among the items that police confiscated from the fire hall were a 425-gallon plastic water tanker, two 55-gallon aluminum cylinders, about 150 fence posts used to stake the marijuana plants, eight 16-inch PVC pipes with built-in irrigation systems and 10 metal haloid lamps, commonly used to grow marijuana, Taraszewski said.

Police said they believe large amounts of marijuana had been removed from the building recently.

Taraszewski said he couldn't give a precise estimate of the inventory's worth beyond thousands of dollars, and didn't know how much marijuana the system could produce or at what rate.

Crews from Hilltop Hose Company of Harrison loaded the inventory onto two flatbed trucks and a pickup from 6 to 7 p.m. while traffic was shut down from Chestnut to Sycamore streets.

It was unknown what charges Kubla might face in connection with the growing operation. He was being detained on Sunday on simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct charges stemming from Saturday afternoon's domestic dispute. His preliminary hearing for those charges is scheduled for Jan. 29.

The building hasn't been used as a fire hall in more than 20 years, according to Hilltop Captain Mike Krzeminski.

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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