Pubdate: Fri, 20 Mar 2009
Source: Vaughan Today (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Multimedia Nova Corporation
Author: Karolyn Coorsh
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Vaughan Fire Takes Over After Cops Bust Marijuana Growers

When York's drug cops arrested a man after finding 739 marijuana
plants sprouting in a Woodbridge basement on March 11, one of the
first calls they made was to Andre Clafton.

Vaughan's fire prevention inspector was on-site within

After police collected their evidence, Clafton and his team got busy
collecting theirs.

In many municipalities in Ontario, busted residential grow-ops are a
police matter but Vaughan takes a different approach.

"It's not just a police issue, it's a community safety issue," Clafton
said. "If one of them should (catch) fire, . . . it concerns us all."

Clafton inspects the homes for fire violations and health hazards, and
has the jurisdiction to lay charges under the Ontario Fire Code.

It's a relatively new protocol pioneered by the Vaughan Fire and
Rescue Service, one that ultimately holds homeowners responsible for
the remediation of a house used for the cultivation of cannabis.

Houses like these are often in such rough shape because of structural
damage, faulty wiring and mould that they're deemed unfit to live in.

Once an initial inspection is complete, Clafton contacts other city
departments, like Buildings Standards and an intensive cleanup plan is
hashed out - one the homeowner must pay for.

The inspector said he's seen the cleanup costs range from $50,000 to a
heftier $150,000.

That's beyond any potential fire code violations, each carrying a fine
of up to $50,000.

The purpose, the inspector said, is to ensure the residence is brought
back up to proper standards.

"We want to make sure that (for) whoever goes back into the house,
there's not going to be a reoccurrence of mould issues and safety
issues," Clafton said, adding inspectors also put a lien on damaged
homes "to stop the sale of anything until everything is remedied".

With no existing blueprint, Vaughan Fire had to define its own rules
when it launched the protocol five years ago.

At the time, the only other municipality doing something similar was
Niagara Falls, Clafton said.

But Vaughan was ahead of the game. In 2005, the province introduced
Bill 128, which increased penalties and ensured municipal inspections
would occur post-police bust.

"Bill 128 just reinforced what we were doing and we just tightened up
our reins," Clafton said.

Since some grows are operated by tenants in rental units, sometimes an
unwitting landlord gets stiffed with remediation costs. For that
reason, Clafton said, landlords should be protecting their investments
by conducting monthly inspections.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin