Pubdate: Sat, 05 Mar 2005
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Bookmark: (Grow Operations)
Bookmark: (Rochfort Bridge)


It could be a respectable looking house in a respectable middle or 
upper-class neighbourhood.

Or maybe it's a farm house in an isolated, rural area.

There's no snow on the roof, even though it's winter and there's snow 
everywhere else. The people who live there are rarely seen and the only 
activity around the house occurs at night.

If that's the case in your neighbourhood or at the farm house down the 
country road, there's a chance the building is home to a marijuana-grow 

For most of us, it could be a nuisance, a fire hazard and a neighbourhood 

But if you're a police officer or firefighters and you have to go into one 
of those homes, it's a whole lot more than a curiosity.

For police officers, as most Canadians now realize, it is an extremely 
dangerous situation that can result in death.

"There are a lot of risks," Acting Insp. Scott Easto of the Brantford 
Police said Friday. "First of all, you have to worry about the operator and 
you also have to worry about the operation.

"For the operator, it's an investment worth a lot of money and he's going 
to protect it."

Often that means booby traps and Easto has read plenty of stories in trade 
magazines that highlight the dangers of entering a grow house.

In one case, officers entering a grow operation set off a booby trap and 
were exposed to some chemicals.

Easto has also read about an incident in Quebec in which a grower had set 
up a 12-gauge shot gun at the door. The grower returned after a night of 
drinking, forgot about his own trap and was killed.

There have also been a report about a grow operation being protected by an 

All that is in addition to the hazards created by the grow operations 

Police now wear protective eye wear when entering an operation because 
officers have had their eyes scratched by loose and dangling wires.

Breathing protection is often worn now when entering a grow operation 
because the homes usually have fertilizers, growth stimulators, pesticides, 
dangerous moulds and high levels of oxygen or carbon monoxide.

Officers also have to contend with fire hazards.

It has become standard procedure to cut the power to a home before entering 
a grow operation to cut down the risk of having to deal with live electricity.

County of Brant OPP officers have other risks and challenges to contend 
with when dealing with a grow operation.

"It's been my experience that rural grow operations are hard to detect and 
when you're out there, you're out there alone and there's a good chance 
you're going to encounter weapons and booby traps," Getty said.

Grow operations in rural areas present much different challenges for police 
officers because they are usually isolated. That makes it difficult to put 
the grow-op under surveillance and makes it difficult to conduct a raid.

The success of the raid depends on an element of surprise which is 
difficult to have when the area is isolated.

Both city police officers and County of Brant officers extended their 
condolences to the families of the RCMP officers who were killed near the 
hamlet of Rochfort Bridge in northwestern Alberta.

There's no question grow operations are extremely risky for police officers 
but many people may not realize that such homes also present severe dangers 
to firefighters.

"When there's a fire in one of these homes we go in to put the fire out but 
don't really know what we're dealing with until we're in there and start 
spraying water around," Deputy Fire Chief Bob Ruttan said Friday. "It's 
pitch black in there, it's all smoky and you've got all these dangling 
wires to contend with.

"A firefighter can get all tangled up in those wires, be using up air and 
be unable to get out."

Firefighters also have to contend with live electricity and transformers.

The key for firefighter and police officer safety is training and 
understanding what they can expect in a grow operation.

"We've been fortunate here," Ruttan said. "We haven't had anything too bad 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom