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Old 01-08-2010, 02:59 AM   #1
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Default Chilly weather outs substantial marijuana grow operation in Revelstoke

Police say they were in the process of putting together a search warrant when Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services discovered the large grow operation

47-year-old man from Hong Kong in police custody

Man fled the scene on foot when fire department arrived, was picked up later in downtown Revelstoke

A call about a possible fire yesterday evening in a house located at 1356 Nichol Road led to Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services uncovering a 'substantial' marijuana grow operation.

Fire chief Rob Girard says someone noticed smoke coming from the house and rang the department.

“Upon arrival, fire crews discovered smoke escaping from the gable end vents of the attic of the residence," said Girard. “No one appeared to be home and firefighters gained access to the residence at the rear of the building to do a quick search for possible occupants and source of the smoke."

Nobody was in the house, but the fire crew did come across a "substantial marijuana grow operation throughout the house," says Girard.

It turns out it wasn't smoke that was escaping from the gables in the roof of the house, but rather steam caused by the operation. “This venting into the attic of the hot, humid air gave the impression of smoke escaping from the gable end vents, as it formed steam when met the cold night air," said Girard.

He says that grow operations are a big concern for the department. “These types of fire calls to marijuana grow operations are of extreme concern to us simply because of the nature of the criminal activity, the hazard to firefighters with regards to the manipulated electrical systems and the fact that we have no idea it’s a grow operation until we enter the residence," said the chief.

Because there was no actual fire, the scene was handed over to the RCMP.

Cpl. Rod Wiebe said RCMP opted to get a search warrant for the residence despite the fact that operation had been discovered on a fire call. "We were already looking at that house for a suspected grow operation," he said. "As a matter of fact, the investigating member was just starting to put together a search warrant for that residence when this call came in."

Police worked at the residence until after 2 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7 to catalogue the scene and remove over 850 marijuana plants. They also discovered that the electrical meters had been bypassed in order to steal power. BC Hydro crews have since removed the connections to the building.

A 47-year-old man from Hong Kong is in police custody, and is expected to be released today. Witnesses reported seeing a man flee the scene when the fire department arrived, and RCMP say they located the man in downtown Revelstoke at about 10:30 p.m. Cpl. Wiebe says he doesn't believe the man has much of a Revelstoke connection. RCMP said he is in the country on a visitor visa, and is not a Canadian citizen. Wiebe said there is a risk the man could flee the country. "If we have to release him, we will be holding onto his passport," said Wiebe.

He says at this point the police say they don't have any information to suggest the man had past encounters with police, but that it was too early to rule out the possibility.

The man didn't own the house. The owner lives in the Lower Mainland. "At this point we believe that the person that we have was probably just a caretaker for the grow [operation] and we don't believe that anyone was actually living in the house."

Police say they haven't uncovered a connection between the owner of the house and any organized crime groups. Wiebe said the RCMP had not linked the man to other residences in Revelstoke.

RCMP have not forwarded charges to Crown counsel, but says that the suspect could be facing charges of production of a controlled substance, possession for the purposes of trafficking and theft of hydro.

A neighbour of the residence said that an Asian couple appeared to have bought the home about a year ago. Neighbours had tried to talk to them, but the pair didn't speak English at all -- or at least pretended not to.

He said that the pair would visit the house about twice a week, and would not interact with neighbours. The curtains were always closed. He said neighbours had their suspicions that the house was being used as a grow operation.


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