Despite the legalization of marijuana for different uses in many states, some people still use illegal grow operations to make money. Grows can be either indoor or out. Each poses a significant risk to first responders who may inadvertently encounter these dangerous situations during a fire or other emergency.
Common signs of an illegal grow operation
Make no mistake: these are deadly situations. In 2016, an explosion at an illegal grow killed a Fire Department of New York battalion chief and injured 20.
Watch out for these indicators:
- Doors and windows barricaded or sealed from the inside.
- Special sodium or metal halide lighting.
- Sources of CO2, like pressurized tanks and propane cylinders.
- Fertilizers and other chemicals.
- Excessive ductwork, wires, pipes, tubes, and plastic sheeting. (These are entanglement hazards.)
From the outside, grow houses often look like regular homes, sometimes even in affluent neighborhoods. Inside it is a very different story. They may have dangerously rigged wiring to mask the amount of power used. Firefighters need to use extreme caution as operators of the grow may use deadly force to stop anyone from entering the building.
Fire departments should educate firefighters to recognize the signs of an illegal grow house operation to protect them and the public from disastrous consequences.
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: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times