SANTA ANA (CNS) - An indoor marijuana crop may have sparked the greater- alarm fire that heavily damaged two suites of a nine-suite Santa Ana commercial center and caused smoke damage to a third early this morning, firefighters and police said.

Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said live marijuana plants and equipment used to grow them were found in one of the suites, but he didn't know how many plants were discovered.

An officer on patrol first noticed the fire and alerted firefighters, Bertagna said.

The fire was reported at 1:12 a.m. in the one-story strip center in the 2200 block of South Fairview Street, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.

``When they got here, the fire was through the roof,'' Concialdi said. ``Firefighters said it was like an oven inside, and they were able to save six of nine suites.''

About 75 firefighters had most of the fire out by 2:06 a.m. The affected units were in the middle of the center, Concialdi said.

The cause was under investigation, and ``Orange County Fire Authority investigators are working closely with the Santa Ana Police Department,'' he said.

Investigators will work to determine who was responsible for the growing operation, he said.

Posted by Amy King