London fire-fighters rushed to a fire at a derelict public house in south-east London on Sunday to discover a cannabis factory on an upper floor. Police believe three men cultivating the plants escaped using knotted sheets. No arrests have yet been made.
Fire-fighters were called to the blaze in the Albertines pub in Lewisham Way, Brockley, at 3:47am, and fought the blaze for around two hours. Half of the first and second floors were damaged by the fire as well as the roof. Ambulance crews were called as a precaution but no one was reported injured. Roads around the premises were closed but have now reopened.
Prior to its closure last year the pub - formerly the Malt & Hops - had acquired something of a reputation locally. Nearby residents complained that it was a nuisance and a Southwark Council planning committee described the Albertines as being run "more like a club". The premises were in the process of being refurbished. It is not known how long the cannabis factory had been in operation.
Last year London Fire Service warned that fires at cannabis factories were an increasing problem, and that some factories were booby-trapped, causing risks to their crews. "Fires in cannabis factories are extremely dangerous due to the large amount of heating and lighting equipment used to grow the plants. In a large number of cases electricity has been illegally sourced, bypassing the conventional routes. On average fires involving cannabis factories require four fire engines and over 20 firefighters to bring the intense blazes under control."
A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) claims cannabis production is thriving in the UK, with some 21 farms or factories being discovered each day and most dope now being "home-grown". ACPO provides a guide to help people spot potential cannabis factories in their area. Tell-tale signs include high electricity bills, "unsociable" tenants and covered-up windows.
The growth of cannabis under hydroponic conditions using a deep water culture "oxy" pot is particularly popular but health experts have warned that dope grown in this way could cause serious mental health issues for users. Cannabis has become increasingly potent and dangers of use include schizophrenia and psychosis.