Possible Marijuana Grow Catches Fire: Hidden Dangers or Over-Hype?

Overnight, a fire reportedly broke out in a two-story garage on South Bryant Street in the community of Sheridan.

The blaze has been extinguished and is being mopped up at this hour.

But it remains newsworthy because representatives of the Denver Fire Department suspect that the garage housed a marijuana grow — and the DFD has long complained about the hazards of such residential operations.

Here's a tweet from the scene by videographer Cody White....

...and 7News reporter Eric Lupher....

...who quotes a DFD spokesperson as saying firefighters noted the presence of extension cords, grow lights and the sort of narrow passageways that makes escape routes difficult to find.

Such topics were among those discussed this past March, when the Denver City Council voted for a 36-plant limit at unregulated pot grows.

The following excerpt from Thomas Mitchell's piece on the decision spells out the department's fears:
The Denver Fire Department and its head of marijuana policy, Ashley Kilroy, claim some of the unlicensed growing operations they've come across have multiple zoning hazards — including blocked exits, faulty electricity and mold exposure. Non-licensed growing warehouses aren't required to register with the state, so any safety inspections only occur if someone alerts the city or the growers ask for one themselves.

Here's part of the city's reasoning, as seen in an excerpt from the bill: "This gap in regulation has resulted in a proliferation of large-scale, non-licensed and unregulated marijuana grow operations that present significant health and public safety concerns with multiple and persistent violations of city building, electrical, fire, and environmental safety regulations; and whereas, the marijuana produced by these large-scale, unregulated cultivation operations cannot be tracked, making it virtually impossible to verify that this marijuana is distributed in accordance with all applicable laws."
Granted, the number of fires at unregulated grows hasn't reached epidemic proportions, and there's a tendency of the news media to over-hype those that do occur. Note a 2012 fire that prompted CBS4 to characterize grows as what our William Breathes described at the time as "the electrical-blaze equivalent of a ticking time bomb" and "deadly jungles full of booby traps." In that case, however, the fire was exceedingly minor and had already been extinguished before firefighters arrived.

In this morning's case, black marks can be seen on the portion of the garage visible from the street, and the DFD maintains that damage is more extensive around the back. However, there are no reports of injuries to firefighters or nearby residents.

Here's the 7News report.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories