CANNABIS FARM SET ALIGHT TO DEMONSTRATE DANGER TO THE PUBLIC
A live demonstration of the fire risk that cannabis farms pose to the public will take place today as part of a hard-hitting awareness-raising campaign by Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and Crimestoppers.
A specially built area replicating a room in a house where a sophisticated cannabis farm has been set up will see a fire start as a result of the dangerous wiring used to bypass the electricity meter.
The room will quickly catch fire and, due to the house being unoccupied (as is often the case where cannabis farms operate), extensive damage will quickly occur – jeopardising the lives of anyone who lives in neighbouring homes.
The emergency services hope the graphic demonstration will hit home the message that it is in everyone’s interests to report these dangerous and illegal drug factories and not allow criminal gangs to profit from putting innocent lives in danger.
The move comes as national crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers joins forces with the police and fire and rescue service in educating people about the tell-tale signs of a cannabis factory operating where they live – and how to report it anonymously.
Last year’s campaign led to a 28 per cent increase in reporting to Crimestoppers.
Thousands of scratch and sniff flyers are being posted through people’s doors and handed out in hotspot areas where someone can smell what grown cannabis, as opposed to cannabis smoke, is really like.
New figures, released by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service show that between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2013, firefighters extinguished 73 fires involving cannabis farms, including 46 in Liverpool resulting in six people being rescued by firefighters.
Of the 73 fires, the ignition source for 19 of them was the electricity supply including wiring, cabling, plugs, batteries, generators and apparatus. Eight of the fires were due to electrical lighting being the ignition source.
During the time period in non-fire-related incidents, firefighters discovered cannabis at 23 different locations they attended between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2013
Between January 1 this year and May 31, firefighters in Merseyside attended 12 locations where cannabis was located, including eight fires that were extinguished by fire crews.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Richardson from Matrix Serious Organised Crime, and who commands the force’s specialist cannabis dismantling team (the only dedicated team in the country), said: “Cannabis is not a harmless drug and its production is large in scale and large in profit here in Merseyside as well as elsewhere in the country. The quantities that it is being grown in here means it is rarely people doing it to feed their own casual habit – it is organised criminal gangs who are setting them up and controlling them. This is bringing associated problems such as violent crime and gun crime to the streets of our communities as these criminals seek to steal each other’s crops and money.
“We are determined to put a stop to this and we are discovering so many cannabis farms now that we have a dedicated team whose job it is to dismantle every one we find and capture the evidence the criminals leave behind.
“Sadly, these farms are being set up in residential areas where innocent people live and they are putting people’s lives at risk. Cannabis farms are a serious fire risk in that the electricity meters are almost always tampered with to steal electricity, hot lamps will have been rigged up to simulate ideal growing conditions, and a watering system will also be in place. Electricty and water are never a good combination and these criminals care little about the people their crude handiwork may harm.
“There have been dozens of times recently where the fire service have been called to a house fire only to discover a cannabis farm alight inside and it is only thanks to their swift response that the fire has not spread to a house next door where innocent people live.
“The public can help us stop it reaching this stage by telling us where these cannabis farms are and who is responsible for them. The Crimestoppers campaign is an innovative way of spreading the message about the signs to look out for and how to report anonymously. I would encourage people to look at the damage a fire like this could cause if you lived next door to a drugs farm and do the right thing for your own safety and call the police or Crimestoppers.”
Myles Platt, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Area Manager for Prevention and Protection, said: “Cannabis farms and locations where cannabis is grown are simply dangerous. The farms and fires pose a great risk to members of the public and firefighters alike with many not have working smoke alarms in the properties or any means of fire detection.
“As a result of tampering with the electrical supply and tampering with the wiring installation, often by self-taught ‘experts’, the supply to the property may not be properly earthed and the cabling not secured. This could cause metal items within the property to become ‘live’, posing a risk of electrocution to members of the public and firefighters and potential for getting tangled in the cables in heat and smoke.
“We have seen the number of fires at locations where there is cannabis increase from 18 in 2011 to 28 in 2013 and firefighters are regularly discovering cannabis farms at locations they attend.”
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