By CBSBoston.com Staff

FOXBORO (CBS) — A Foxboro house fire that displaced about a dozen residents Wednesday morning was sparked by a “large scale” marijuana growing operation, authorities say.

Emergency crews in Hazmat suits came to the Central Street building that had burned earlier in the day after investigators discovered about 200 marijuana plants in the basement. A prosecutor said in court that the fire was started by heating equipment used for growing plants.

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When firefighters responded to the blaze around 5 a.m., they found heavy smoke and the flames eventually spread to the second and third floors.

“Initial crews saw heavy smoke coming out of the first floor and basement area,” said Foxboro Fire Chief Michael Kelleher.

Investigators at the scene of a fire in Foxboro (WBZ-TV)

Neighbor Rick Larocque said it was heartbreaking watching the fire spread up the third floor where children lived. “Seeing the Christmas tree and the toys up there, not good man, and the kids shouldn’t pay for that,” Larocque said.

Residents in six units all made it out safely. Firefighters tried to salvage Christmas gifts that were left inside.

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Police arrested the owner of the building, Donald Corliss III, who appeared in Wrentham District Court to face charges of possession with intent to distribute, reckless endangerment of a child and drug possession. More charges are expected to be filed, police said.

Donald Corliss appears in Wrentham District Court (WBZ-TV)

Police said detectives searching the house also found 100 pounds of marijuana in a drying room and “various packing materials, THC products, and molds to make various THC products, including lollipops and chocolate bars, and a substance believed to be fentanyl.”

A judge set bail at $5,000; Corliss is due back in court Feb. 15 for a pretrial hearing.

“It is selfish. He’s not thinking about other people,” Larocque said.

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Thirteen people have been displaced. A local charity group, the Foxboro Jaycees, is collecting donations for the displaced families.

CBSBoston.com Staff