London Fire Brigade

Cannabis factory fires stay high

14 November 2014

The number of cannabis factory fires have been steadily increasing in recent years. Last year there were 25 fires in cannabis factories - around one every fortnight.

Dangers

Cannabis factory fires are especially dangerous to tackle because they typically involve a tangle of lamps and heaters powered from illegally sourced electricity.

Not only is the Brigade concerned about risk to life and property, but they are also especially hazardous to firefighters too. Cultivators can kit out properties with false floors, barbed wire and electrification of door handles and windows to purposively injure those who discover the drugs. Recent cannabis incidents include:

  • Rothbury Walk, Tottenham, on 14 October, a firefighter sustained neck injuries after becoming trapped in cabling. The fire had started in potted compost used for the cannabis and spread to other pots.
  • Lewisham Way, Brockley, in May. Four fire engines attended a fire at a disused pub in the early hours of the morning. Most of the roof and half of the second floor was damaged by the blaze.
  • Forest Road, Lower Edmonton, in March, where a terraced house was completely destroyed. The fire started as a result of an overload of the electricity supply.

Spotting the signs

  • Strong and sickly sweet smell 
  • Large amounts of growing equipment 
  • Constantly covered or blocked off windows 
  • Visitors at unsociable hours 
  • Strong and constant lighting day and night 
  • High levels of heat and condensation 
  • Constant buzz of ventilation 
  • Lots of cables

London Fire Brigade Third Officer Dave Brown said: "Cannabis factory fires can be very severe because of the way criminals use unsafe wiring to illegally obtain electricity in order to grow the plants. They're often in top floors or lofts which means when a fire takes hold it spreads, destroying roofs and damaging neighbouring buildings.

"Firefighters can also be exposed to risks when dealing with the fires because of bad wiring and booby traps at some of the properties.

"It's important that people know the key signs and inform the police so that they can act swiftly to prevent these dangerous fires."

Cannabis factory fires in 2013/14

Contact the police

Members of the public who have information about anyone who is dealing drugs in their area are urged to contact their local Safer Neighbourhoods Team or dial 101, the police non emergency number.

Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. In an emergency, always dial 999.