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Cannabis factory fires have more than doubled in the last two years according to new figures released today by London Fire Brigade.
Last year there was one fire a fortnight in a building being used to cultivate cannabis, more than double the number of blazes seen in 2010/11. The figures also show that 25 of the 27 fires last year were in residential properties posing a significant risk to homes next door.
Fires in cannabis factories are extremely dangerous due to the large amount of heating and lighting equipment used to grow the plants. In a large number of cases electricity has been illegally sourced, bypassing the conventional routes. On average fires involving cannabis factories require four fire engines and over 20 firefighters to bring the intense blazes under control.
The Brigade is extremely concerned about the rise of these fires and are asking people look out for the signs of cannabis factories and report any concerns to the police.
The signs to spot cannabis farming:
Cannabis farms are often booby trapped meaning firefighters tackling them are at greater risk of serious injury. Cultivators kit out properties with false floors, barbed wire and electrification of door handles and windows to purposively injure those who discover the drugs. Firefighters are trained for every eventuality and understand the risks associated with cannabis fires.
London Fire Brigade Third Officer Dave Brown said:
“Cannabis factory fires can be severe due 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 due to dodgy 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.”
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.
The MPS lead for Operation Hawk - the Met's London wide initiative to tackle drug-related crime at local level, Detective Chief Superintendent Carl Bussey, said:
"Cannabis cultivation and drug dealing damage communities and generate organised and violent crime, money laundering and anti social behaviour. The MPS is determined to tackle this problem head on with the assistance of London's communities.
"Under operation Hawk, local police teams are tackling street drug dealing and associated crime using local community intelligence, with more than 13,000 warrants executed and more than 440 cannabis factories closed across London since September 2012.
"With your help, we can make your local community safer. Tell your local Safer Neighbourhoods team who is dealing drugs in your area. You make the call and we'll make it stop."
2010/11 – 13 fires
2011/12 – 19 fires
2012/13 – 27 fires