Members of West Yorkshire Fire Authority were discussing recent fire incidents at the group’s last meeting of 2021 on Friday.
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.
Tampering with electricity supplies in this way is highly dangerous, and in recent years there have been numerous fires in Bradford linked to cannabis farms.
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.
Cllr 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.”
Cllr 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).”
The same day of the Fire Authority meeting seven men from an Albanian organised crime gang was sentenced for charges including setting up a huge cannabis farm in an old mill building on Filey Street, Bradford.
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