Marijuana: A Growing Hazard on the Fireground

Indoor grows affect everyone, including the safety of local residents to fire, EMS and law enforcement responders.

If your fire or EMS agency is dispatched to" possible" indoor marijuana grow operation do you know how to recognize one? What happens if your responders find one during routine activities? Who can you call for assistance?

An indoor marijuana grow operation is an illegal operation where marijuana plants are grown or engineered to maturity and sold, or the concentrated resin (hashish oil) is extracted from the plants. To maintain the best grow environment for these plants, growing operations are typically established in urban residences and rental properties. Law enforcement operations in indoor marijuana grows have the potential to escalate into a hazmat, fire or EMS response.

A Growing Problem
Marijuana grow houses are houses or other locations in rural, urban and residential areas that are converted for the purposes of growing marijuana. Indoor marijuana grow operations are regularly found by law enforcement agencies and appear to be increasing in numbers. Indoor grows affect everyone from the residents of the community to first responders. The number of grows in the U.S. and Canada is on the rise increasing the risk to everyone. Local criminal elements and organized crime can be involved in the operation and distribution. These operations can range from very simple to extremely complex.

Warning Signs

  • Security - Unusual amounts of "Keep Out" or "Beware of Dogs" signs may be present. High fences, locked gates, heavy chains and locks visible.
  • Smell - Indoor marijuana grows will produce a heavy smell of marijuana that can be recognized outside the location. Growers may attempt to camouflage the smell with other products.
  • Condensation - Humidity in growing rooms can reach as much as 100 percent producing large amounts of precipitation on specific windows.
  • Lights - High intensity lamps are used in the indoor growing operation. High intensity light can be seen around doors or windows. Houses may appear much brighter than surrounding houses.
  • Covered windows - Windows may be covered in black plastic, heavy curtains or drapes that will be closed tight and pressed against the windows. This is to prevent any telltale amounts of light to escape and to prevent natural light from disrupting the artificial light cycles.
  • Open Windows - Windows might be cracked open during winter months in various rooms of the house to cool the house and grow room due to excess heat from high intensity lighting.
  • Excess Air Conditioning Units - Small houses with two or three air conditioning units that would not be needed to cool that size home and these units running during winter months or during periods of cooler temperatures.

All the above indicators and others are not proof that you have found an indoor marijuana growing operation; they should raise a "red flag" for the responder to be more aware of their surroundings.

Responder Hazards
Responders should be very cautious of any items or locations that arouse curiosity.

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