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Cannabis - Fire Protection & Prevention

Fire Loss Prevention is critical to both the financial success and the safety of Cannabis growers. Kim and TJ Nielsen, co-owners of Nielsen's Fire Protection, discuss the importance of installing the suitable fire suppression systems that best fits each grower’s protocols.  The safety measures employed must be able to meet all required regularly scheduled fire safety inspections at the grow sites.  Recognizing and adhering to local and state safety codes can avoid costly shut-downs by the fire departments and fire marshals.  Planning for and utilizing the right systems early on will not only provides a safe work place for employees, but adds an important layer of economic protection to both the infrastructure and the plants Kim Nielsen explained.

TJ Nielsen explains, "Indoor marijuana farmers often utilize natural gas, propane or butane to power carbon dioxide generators that accelerate the plants growth cycle. These systems, although effective, create serious potential fire hazards, particularly if not used cautiously.  The fire risks have been clearly evidenced in recent years with explosions and other catastrophes across the country at grow sites employing many of these similar techniques.  Clearly the risks have to be tempered with state-of-the-art fire detection and suppression devices that best mitigate the clear and present danger of fire”.

Indoor gas use "is a standard way to grow marijuana," says Michael O'Hare, a professor at UC Berkeley who is an expert in cannabis cultivation. "If you raise the CO2 level, it'll grow faster." Some growers rely on metered gas from a utility, or tanks of propane or butane gas to fuel the CO2 level. In those conditions, a gas leak could spell disaster.

Cannabis growing operations are full of combustible items related to the cannabis operation, including grow lamps and vats of liquid fertilizer. Windows are often covered, sealed, with other areas covered with extra insulation in order to retain heat.  All of these standard procedures add to both the risk and the severity of fire.  These risks, without adequate fire detection and suppression methods, will not be approved or permitted by fire inspectors charged with the responsibility of enforcing local fire codes and protection the public. Consequently, inadequate fire safety measures can well result in the business being forced to close at great economic expense.  An expanse that could have been avoided by consulting with a fire safety expert that recognizes what fire inspectors will and will not approve.

Last year, a marijuana dispensary in Santa Fe, N.M., was engulfed in flames after a blast that injured two workers. Fire department investigators said a butane leak met with an ignition source, causing an explosion powerful enough to separate the roof from the wall and melt fluorescent lights. The cost of mitigating the risk would have been far less than the ultimate costs to the owners.

“A typical cannabis growing operation has a substantial investment in both the equipment and the inventory. Protecting those assets through the installation of fire-loss control measures will safeguard company employees and mitigate future risks of loss”, explained TJ Nielsen.   TJ Nielsen states, “There are fire suppression systems that will not negatively damage the valuable plants, for example a  Hi-fog System”, along with other approaches that Nielsen Fire might recommend based on the growers specific protocols and the site layout. ”Fire safety is no longer an option for growers, rather it’s now essential to the long-term economic viability of the business, the safety of the workers and the community and increasingly required by local ordinances and fire marshals; who ultimately must permit the operation”, TJ Nielsen adds.