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Felony assault charges added in Bronx grow-house explosion that killed FDNY battalion chief

THE BRONX — The office of Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced Tuesday it was adding felony assault charges to the criminal case against two men arrested in the death of FDNY Battalion Chief Michael Fahy.

The case against Julio Salcedo, 34, and Garivaldi Castillo, 32, is being presented to a grand jury.

They’ve already been hit with felony drug charges in connection with the alleged marijuana “grow operation” that exploded on Tuesday, September 27th.

Michael Fahy, a 44-year-old father of three, considered a rising star in the FDNY, was hit by flying debris after the house on W. 234th Street in the Bronx erupted from some kind of gas explosion.

Fahy was buried Saturday at a Yonkers funeral, where two of his young children spoke lovingly of their father.

The two suspects face up to 25 years in prison if indicted—and convicted—on the upgraded charges. They also face the possibility of more serious charges.

Police investigators are looking at the possibility that a gas line inside the Kingsbridge home had been tampered with to give more power to the growing operation.

Turns out another alleged “grow house” was discovered in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx this week, according to a report by the Daily News.

Complaints about a strong smell of marijuana and chemicals prompted Con Edison, the police department and FDNY to check out 1962 University Avenue on Monday.

They found the main electrical line into the building had been spliced, creating a fire hazard.

Ninety marijuana plants were found in the “grow house” apartment inside of a building that contains 50 units and hundreds of residents who were at risk.

“I think it’s appalling,” Morris Heights resident Hector Gugierrez told PIX11. “It’s unsafe for the whole neighborhood. He could have blown it up to bits.”

PIX11 decided to look at the “grow houses” in our midst and interviewed two experts on the matter: James Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration in New York State and Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City.

“In the past ten years, we’ve encountered 32 ‘grow operations,’ in New York,” Hunt told PIX11. “The majority of them are in rural areas.”

Yet it’s troubling that a second “grow house” was discovered in the Bronx, within a week of Battalion Chief Fahy’s death.

New York City has had several, high profile cases in recent years involving marijuana grow houses.

In February 2015, investigators looking at potential illegal waste dumping at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries in Red Hook, Brooklyn came upon a fake wall that led to a huge marijuana grow operation in the factory basement.

The long-time owner, Arthur Mondella, went to the bathroom and proceeded to fatally shoot himself in the head.

In 2013, the city was intrigued, and angered, by a Scarsdale mother of two, Andrea Sanderlin.

The glamorous blonde, who rented a luxury Tudor in Westchester for $10,000 a month, was busted in Maspeth, Queens for using a small warehouse on 57th Drive as her space for a large marijuana farm. There were residential homes across the street, and one lady who lived there told PIX11 at the time, “She should rot in jail.”

Sanderlin only spent a short amount of time in jail, made bail, and then cut a deal with the government to provide information in another marijuana case.

A judge gave the soccer mom “time served,” when she was sentenced in April 2016. Her story was compared to the cable show “Weeds,” starring Mary Louise Parker as a suburban mom selling pot to pay her bills.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Brennan told PIX11 “grow houses” are generally rare in New York City “because it’s so densely populated, and the fumes that come out of these labs are pretty intense, so they would be noticed pretty easily.”

Yet it’s no surprise that “grow houses” pop up, because by cultivating their own marijuana, sellers can generate more profits for themselves. They’re also putting many more people at risk.