A medical marijuana crop was destroyed by fire when a barn in Pitt Meadows caught fire just before Christmas, again highlighting concerns about unsafe grow operations voiced repeatedly by the fire department.
The Dec. 23 blaze on McDonald Road was spotted by passerby around 2:30 a.m.
“When they called it in, it was already fully involved,” said fire chief Don Jolley.
By the time crews arrived, the barn that housed the marijuana was completely engulfed in flames. The structure, off Harris Road, was surrounded by a chain-link fence that had propane tanks propped up against it.
The explosive hazards both inside and out meant firefighters fought the fire from a distance, said Jolley.
“We would never go inside the building unless we heard someone was trapped,” he added, explaining that grow ops are often rife with danger because of building alterations, shoddy wiring and natural gas pipes.
The city’s building and bylaw officials were aware of the medical grow op, but the fire department only found out marijuana was inside when crews arrived on scene.
Jolley said Health Canada does not require growers to notify the city.
“It’s a pain,” said Jolley, comforted by the fact that the federal government is slowly phasing out home-based medical grows.
In December, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced a planned shift to a new system of federally regulated commercial producers of medical pot who will supply authorized users with prescriptions from doctors.
The federal Ministry of Health intends to implement the system by March 31, 2014, at which point all current licences to possess or produce pot are to expire.
“We won’t hold our breath, but we are moving in the right direction,” said Jolley.
“Sticking it in a barn in the middle of a field somewhere is not the solution,” he added.
“It has to be commercially licensed, zoned, sprinklered, inspected. It should be no different than any other business.”
The public can comment on Health Canada’s medical marijuana changes online until Feb. 28.
The marijuana crop inside the barn was destroyed in the fire.
Ridge Meadows RCMP say nothing suspicious started the blaze, which was most likely caused by an electrical problem.
• Comment online on Health Canada‘s proposed changes to medical marijuana.