Last week a Tennessee marijuana grower burned his single wide trailer to the ground and nearly killed three family members as a result of failing to fireproof his grow. In Pennsylvania, a basement operation that was turning out $4.5 million per year worth of pot (police estimates) was discovered when the fire department had to be called to put out the electrical panel fire that resulted from a grower hacking in to the electrical system in order to escape detection.
A week doesn’t go by without two or three new stories of homes, offices and warehouses burning to the ground as a result of faulty electrical connections, melting cheap Chinese ballasts or overheated grow tents, and as more and more Americans begin to see through the drug war lies they have been taught all of their lives the number of small indoor grows are sure to increase substantially. And as more closets and garages light up, the number of structure fires will continue to rise.
What most grow room fires have in common is that they are, for the most part, easily preventable. Marijuana doesn’t start fires, lazy (or inexperienced) growers do. Check out these tips for preventing, extinguishing and mitigating the damage from grow room fires so you, your family and your neighborhood stays safe.
6 fire prevention tips for grow rooms
- Get rid of the clutter– Growing marijuana requires a lot of materials, and in confined areas it can be easy for packaging and equipment to take up a lot of your space. Throw out trash, boxes and shipping materials before they begin piling up (make sure shipping materials are disposed of safely). Mount ballasts and cables to blocks of wood on the wall so they don’t get wet or come into contact with any debris.
- Know your electrical limits– If you can’t afford (or don’t know) a reliable, discreet electrician then make sure you understand the precise amount of juice everything in your room will draw and that your electrical system will be able to handle it. Arc fault circuit breakers are a must, as are ground fault receptacles (GFI) anywhere that moisture might occur in the grow area. Cheap timers can start a fire, as can extension cords (don’t use an extension cord with your ballast). This list of the top 10 electrical mistakes and how to avoid them is very good for people just getting started with electricity.
- Install a grow tent fire extinguisher– For marijuana growers who only use a small area, like a grow tent or closet, a good self-actuating fire extinguisher that can be mounted in the tent or closet is a must. For less than $75 you can sleep soundly at night knowing that no one will be hurt (or worse) as a result of the faulty ballast or overheated hood. A smoke detector is also a must, don’t skip it.
- If fire does start, strangle it– Fire needs oxygen to grow, and most marijuana farmers have their operation setup to deliver the optimum airflow at all times. This can be a problem if fire breaks out while you are gone or asleep, especially if you have your grow ventilation system running on a thermostat. If a fire starts you want it to receive as little oxygen as possible. Unfortunately, ventilation systems set to kick on above a certain temperature can not only feed the fire, but spread it throughout the ventilation system. It is best to either regulate the temperature manually or put it on a timer. You should also install louvered vents, which will close when air is not being forced through it, keeping the fire from sucking oxygen through the exhaust system. If you are extra fancy you can install a remote thermostat that can be operated from your cell phone or computer.
- No extraction in the grow room– There can be no doubt that dabbing (as it were) is here to stay, and more and more of today’s extract artists are creating some of the most potent, contaminant-free treats ever seen. But blasting nugs with flammable petrochemicals in your grow room is a good way to blow your house up, what with all of the electrical equipment buzzing and grow lights so bright they can burn your retinas right out of your eyes (probably). Store your extraction chemicals in another room and do your nug run outside, because if you blow your house up making shatter your insurance company will act like they never met you.
- Don’t steal utilities– Just don’t do it. You would think by now people would realize how dumb and dangerous it is to bypass an electrical meter but they don’t. If you do you run a good chance of burning down your house, apartment, office or whatever. If your indoor marijuana grow is so big that you are stealing electricity in order to avoid detection then it’s time to invest in a generator.
Most cannabis growers are safety-conscious, good stewards of their property and want to be good neighbors. Unfortunately there are those — either well-meaning growers who are inexperienced, people who know better but don’t care, or well-financed illicit grow operations that move in, light up a house as fast as possible and then move on — that aren’t so careful, and as Newton is known to do he will eventually strike. Sadly it probably won’t be long before we see a terrible tragedy happen in the form of multiple deaths — either in a structure growing marijuana or in homes adjacent to it — and clandestine marijuana growers will face a ramped-up threat from law enforcement looking to crack down on illegal grows.
It’s not enough to just worry about the security of your grow. You must also take positive steps to ensure that you, your loved ones and your community are safe from the very real danger that an unexpected fire presents. Though this risk is inherent in every indoor grow operation, regardless of size, it is vitally important to minimize those risks at every available opportunity.