Farm set alight to demonstrate danger to the Public
A live demonstration of a
Cannabis Farm hidden in a house, catching fire due to criminals
tampering with the electricity and putting neighbouring family homes
at risk has been conducted by Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and
Rescue Service and Crimestoppers.
The demonstration took place in a specially built area, replicating
a room in a house, where a sophisticated cannabis farm has been set
up, then catching fire as a result of the dangerous wiring used to
bypass the electricity meter.
This was done to show how quickly the fire can take hold, and the
risk to others, as the extensive damage of a fire like this will
quickly jeopardise the lives of anyone who lives in neighbouring
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 part of the National crime fighting charity
Crimestoppers joins forces with the Police and Fire and Rescue
Service, to educate people about the tell tale signs of a cannabis
factory operating where they live, along with to report it
anonymously. Last year's campaign led to a 28% increase in reporting
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
New figures, released by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service show
that between 1 January 2011, and 31 December 2013, firefighters
extinguished 73 fires involving cannabis farms, including 46 in
Liverpool resulting in 6 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. 8 of these fires were due to electrical lighting being
the ignition source. During that time period, in non-fire-related
incidents, Firefighters discovered cannabis at 23 different
locations they attended between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2013.
Also between 1 January 2014 and 31 May 2014, firefighters in
Merseyside attended 12 locations where cannabis was located,
including 8 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 and 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."
The demonstration was based on a Fire that emergency services had
been called to on Thursday, 5 June 2014. The photos on this report
are the photos of the damage from that fire at a mid-terrace house,
in a side street off Breck Rd in Anfield.
At that incident the Fire Service was initially on scene after
receiving call from a neighbour reporting a house fire. Police
alerted before cannabis farm discovered as MFS concerned there might
have been people trapped inside (the house is a rented property that
up until Xmas had been rented to a young family and before that an
elderly gentleman). Fire extinguished in around an hour. Once
firefighters went inside they discovered a cannabis farm in an
upstairs bedroom. Fire had been so fierce that it burnt a hole in
the floor boards, leading to fire and smoke damage in the downstairs
A Scottish Power Electrician embedded with Police's Cannabis
Dismantling Team examined the meter and wiring and found it had been
bridged, effectively rendering the electricity supplier unable to
tell how much electricity was being used and allowing the criminal
to use as much electricity they wanted, without it being detected.
(its estimated that this theft of electricity amounted to tens of
thousands of pounds if the farm had been in operation for 1 year)
A total of 130 plants were found in the house, including cannabis
being dried in the bathroom, and grown in tubs in upstairs bedroom.
Also in the property were 24 hot lamps and transformers and various
fans and heaters.
130 plants are capable of producing around £1,000 worth of drugs per
crop (12 week cycle). If the plant is then replaced with a new plant
in the same space in the growing room, another £1000 worth of drugs
can be grown. 12 week cycles means four yields per year. So a 130
plant sized farm could in theory, if it goes undetected, produce
£520,000 worth of cannabis per year.
No-one has been arrested in connection with this
crime, but investigations are still on going.
Other resent examples for fires started this ware are as follows:-
Firefighters found 51 cannabis plants after they were called to a
fire in a flat at a block of flats. Merseyside Fire and Rescue
Service was called at 6.21am, on Tuesday, 11 February 2014, to Jason
Street, Everton. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus
extinguished the fire and searched the flat to make sure no one was
inside. The fire was extinguished by 6.52am. The fire involved a
flat on the 14th floor of the building. 2 fire appliances from
Kirkdale Community Fire Station and 1 from Liverpool City Community
Fire Station attended the call out.
Firefighters discovered around 100 cannabis plants when they were
called to a fire at a property in St Helens, which had no smoke
alarms. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service was called at 10.30pm, on
Monday, 27 January 2014, to a property in Morris Street, St Helens.
By 11.12pm firefighters were ventilating the property and tackling
fire hot spots in the building. 2 firefighters wearing breathing
apparatus used a hose jet to extinguish the fire in a 1st floor
bedroom. There were no smoke alarms in the building where the fire
took place. The suspected cause of the fire was an electrical fault.
Firefighters have extinguished a barn fire and discovered a cannabis
farm with around 100 plants. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service was
called at 9.32am, on 22 November 2013, to the unoccupied 2 storey
barn at The Green, Raby, on the Wirral. When firefighters arrived
they found the upper right hand floor involved in fire. The fire was
extinguished by 10.42am and firefighters checked for any further
fire spread and hot spots. Firefighters discovered a cannabis farm
at the location. The suspected cause of the fire was accidental due
to cannabis cultivation equipment.
Firefighters discovered a cannabis farm after being called to a
collision involving 2 cars. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service was
called at 12.34pm, on Tuesday, 31 July 2013, to Rathbone Road in Old
Swan. 1 of the cars involved in the collision had damaged a gas pipe
on the exterior of a property. Firefighters used dammit paste to
stem the gas leak from the damaged pipe and isolated gas supplies to
two nearby flats. Firefighters also requested a structural engineer
to check the building for damage. A gas engineer was also requested
to attend. When firefighters entered a flat on the road to isolate
the gas supply to the first floor of the building they found the
cannabis farm, which included around 100 plants. Police were on
scene and took charge of the location.
If you know or think you have seen a cannabis farm, please report it
to Crimestoppers on:- 0800 555 111 or to the Police via:- 101 and
help to keep our area crime free and safe.