People in West Yorkshire urged to report suspected cannabis farms amid fire dangers

People are being to report any suspected cannabis farms after the dangers of such criminal enterprises were highlighted in a meeting of West Yorkshire Fire Service.

Monday, 27th December 2021, 12:00 pm

Members of West Yorkshire Fire Authority were discussing recent fire incidents at the group’s last meeting of 2021.

During the discussion it was pointed out that a large number of house fires in West Yorkshire were a result of cannabis farms being set up in properties, often powered by the “creative” use of household electricity supplies.

Cannabis farms require large amounts of electricity to power heaters and lamps, and those who set up such operations often bypass electricity supplies to run what was described in the meeting as their “urban farming” ventures.

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Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) said: “A significant number of domestic fires seem to be connected to people who have been ‘creative’ with the supply of electricity.”

He asked whether the fire service linked fires caused by this illegal electricity use to cannabis farms.

Scott Donegan, area manager for prevention and response, said as a fire service their main objective was safety, rather than targeting criminals. He added: “Occupants are not always very forthcoming, and it is not always something we get involved in. We can help police build profiles for some homes, and we do get involved in planned events with police sometimes.”

He said when it came to identifying cannabis farms “the smell is normally the first give away.”

He said in most cases police and the fire service relied on intelligence from “good neighbours” to identify cannabis farms.

Coun Pollard said cannabis farms were “spread far and wide” in the area, adding: “They are even in areas you don’t always expect them to be.”

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) pointed out that converting a house into a cannabis farm could be highly dangerous. She said: “Cannabis farming does put properties at risk of fire. Would would you ever offer fire safety advice to people who do urban farming? Some of the people I’ve come across who do it would probably take you up on it.

“We need to warn the public. Sometimes people can be a bit cautious about reporting neighbours, but you have to get the message out that a cannabis farm next door can put your property at risk. They can be a serious threat to the safety of people living in adjacent properties.”

Mr Donegan added: “They are also often linked to organised crime and modern slavery.

“You often see this urban farming in an attic, but sometimes the house is completely converted.”

Coun Sunderland added: “We need the public to play their part. If they feel they have to they can do it anonymously through Crimestoppers (0800 555111).”

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