On July 4, 2009, firefighters were called to put out a trash can fire in Fountain Valley. When they arrived, the trash can was against a townhouse belonging to Christopher Ruotolo. Firefighters used heat detectors to see if the fire had spread into the townhouse. They detected heat inside the townhouse, so they went in. Once inside the home, they found three rooms that were equipped with ventilation, irrigation and lighting systems that were being used to cultivate 300-400 marijuana plants.
When firefighters asked Ruotolo about the marijuana plants, Ruotolo claimed he had a prescription for medical marijuana and was growing them to sell to dispensaries. If he had a prescription, he would only be allowed to grow 12 plants. After the incident, he was charged with defrauding the utility company by bypassing the electric meter at his house to avoid a high electricity bill. He was also charged with felony cultivation of marijuana and felony possession for sale.