Pubdate: Wed, 21 May 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun
Author: David Reevely, Vancouver Sun
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A firefighter who ran out of air Tuesday while fighting a fire in building 
containing a suspected marijuana-growing operation says he wants stiffer 
penalties for people who put firemen at risk while flouting the law.

Captain John McQuade, a 26-year veteran of the Burnaby fire service, said 
he thinks owners of growing operations where fires break out should be 
charged with murder if firefighters die putting out the blazes.

McQuade was one of several firefighters who fought a blaze Tuesday on 
Hastings Street in Burnaby.

"We could tell it was a grow-op right away," he said. "First thing was that 
all the windows were blocked out, and then there were all the marijuana 
plants on the tables."

Burnaby RCMP were still investigating the scene late Tuesday and couldn't 
confirm McQuade's assessment of the operation.

In general, however, police say the intense lights most growing operations 
use are fire hazards, overloading buildings' electrical systems. That's 
what McQuade, who said he's fought eight or nine growing operation fires, 
thinks happened at the building on Hastings.

"There was lots of thick black smoke. You couldn't see a thing," he said.

Alerted to his air shortage by an alarm on the tank, McQuade said he tried 
to follow his water hose back the way he came.

"There was debris falling down and sometimes you can't follow the hose," so 
instead, fellow firefighter Mark Lambert led him to a window. They smashed 
it and McQuade was able to gasp some fresh air into his lungs.

"There are lots of ways to get hurt in a situation like that," he said. 
"One of the guys who was in there with me, a light fell down and knocked 
his mask off. He could have been hurt really badly, or been knocked out."

Firefighters routinely suffer cuts and bruises in the line of duty, and 
risk worse. McQuade said that's part of the job, but that doesn't mean it's 
okay to be cavalier about fire risks, especially where illegal operations 
are concerned.

"It really gets me mad, when people put firefighters' lives at risk like 
that," he said.

McQuade said he doesn't personally know of any firefighters who have been 
killed fighting growing-operation fires, but he said it's just a matter of 
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