HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Not Your Average Joe
Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jun 2008
Source: Standard, The (St. Catharines, CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Standard
Author: Matthew Van Dongen
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


You won't see Joe Adams carrying marijuana plants out of a busted 
grow house along with police.

He doesn't fight fires that erupt from the crazily wired buildings, either.

But the Garden City man has helped shut down a dozen big marijuana 
growing operations across Niagara - and likely helped save the lives 
of firefighters and police officers.

Adams, a senior inspector with the Technical Standards and Safety 
Authority, received a fire safety advocate award from the Ontario 
Fire Marshal Wednesday.

The 54-year-old said the award is more about the fire-safety message 
than about him.

"It's great as far as awareness goes," he said after receiving his 
award along with 16 other Ontarians in a Toronto ceremony. "Our 
mandate (at the TSSA) is putting safety first."

Ontario Fire Marshal Patrick Burke, however, aimed praise directly at 
Adams. "Joe has been a driving force behind the eradication of 
marijuana grow operations in the Niagara region," Burke said in a 
written statement.

"His professional opinion and evidence offered in court has helped 
the Niagara Falls fire department spend less time in long and 
complicated trials."

Adams' job, not to mention his employer, might be a mystery to many people.

But the arm's-length agency actually regulates everything from 
elevators to amusement park rides to fuel safety.

The latter is Adams' speciality, which includes all the technical 
rules surrounding heating and ventilation appliances.

If that doesn't sound exciting, you've probably never walked into a 
marijuana growing operation.

Marijuana plants, while illegal, aren't particularly dangerous when 
you find them. A boiler spewing carbon dioxide into a mould-infested 
home, on the other hand, is a potential killer.

"These people don't realize the danger they put themselves in," Adams 
said of illegal growers. "And not just themselves, but other people."

The affable Adams turned stern when he recalled one particular 
grow-op in Niagara Falls.

The renters had disconnected a boiler pipe to allow carbon dioxide 
and water vapour into the basement apartment. The common practice 
promotes plant growth.

But it also leads to toxic mould and high levels of carbon monoxide, 
a deadly and potentially explosive gas.

"In that case, there were four- and five-year-olds living upstairs, 
totally innocent, totally unaware," Adams said.

"That's when it gets really scary."

Over the last few years, Adams has investigated dozens of grow-ops, 
big and small.

He's a provincial offences officer, which means he can lay charges 
related to fuel safety and impose fines of up to $1 million.

But he also trains fire and police officials to recognize hazards and 
offers on-site advice.

Maybe it's improperly vented heaters, uncapped gas lines or "dead 
giveaways" like soot stains - a sure sign of dangerously high carbon 
monoxide levels.

Adams quickly points out he's just one member of a team of outside 
experts consulted by firefighters and police for complicated grow-ops.

But he's glad to be a part of it.

"These (grow-ops) are such a public safety issue. I'm glad we're 
going after them with a vengeance."
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