Pubdate: Sun, 05 Sep 2004
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Hank Daniszewski, Free Press Reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A Burning Cranbrook Road Home Turned Out To Have More Than 700 Pot
Plants Growing.

A house fire yesterday morning exposed a lucrative pot-growing secret in an 
ordinary suburban London home. London firefighters were called to a blaze 
at 730 Cranbrook Rd. in Westmount subdivision about 6:30 a.m. Once the 
flames and smoke cleared, firefighters discovered an extensive 
marijuana-growing operation.

London police seized 700 plants with an estimated street value of $700,000 
from the house and an additional $18,000 in growing equipment.

No one was in the house when the fire began, but a firefighter was injured 
when he fell through the main floor. He was treated in hospital, but was 
not seriously injured. Three other firefighters were treated for burns. 
Damage to the house was set at $200,000.

"It was a hot, stubborn fire," said Platoon Chief Dave Van Dijk.

Police and officials from the Ontario Fire Marshal's office are trying to 
determine the cause of the fire.

But Van Dijk said secret marijuana-growing operations in average homes pose 
a serious fire threat because hydro meters are typically bypassed to cover 
up the heavy power use.

"In the past, I've seen fires caused by faulty wiring, makeshift wiring or 
the radiant heat from the grow lights themselves," said Van Dijk.

City police said they broke up 86 grow operations last year. In most cases, 
the homeowner didn't live in the house and just used it to grow marijuana.

Homeowners in the quiet neighbourhood were surprised the house concealed 
its illegal secret.

Juvenal Amaral, who lives next door, said the flames could easily have 
spread to his home. Amaral said his mobility is limited because of recent 
knee surgery.

"I don't know what these people were thinking, growing that stuff in 
there," he said.

He said a family had lived in the home until a couple of years ago. Lately, 
the only person seen around the home was a middle-aged man who spoke little 
or no English.

Amaral said the man would drop by occasionally to cut the grass and tend to 
the house -- otherwise there was no other sign of anything unusual going on.

"I had no idea there was a fortune growing next door," he said with a laugh.

Steve Thomas and Melanie Elms, who live several doors from the fire, woke 
up to the smell of smoke around 6 a.m.

They drove around the neighbourhood and called the fire department after 
spotting the smoke and flames.

"I banged on the front door and went around to the back. I touched the 
patio door and it was very hot," said Thomas.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D