Cannabis is being legalised in an increasing number of countries worldwide. Not least in the USA where, up to now, cannabis for recreational use is legal in 10 states. Also, cannabis is increasingly being legalised for medical use. However, the production of cannabis can entail a number of potential fire hazards that we do not experience in the cultivation of other plants.
The increasing legalisation of cannabis means that, in future, there will be production facilities that cultivate hemp plants on an industrial scale. But, growing cannabis is not the same as growing lettuce or watercress. To grow optimally, the plants require very specific conditions, and these conditions can result in fire technical challenges. Therefore, in the USA, they have drawn up guidelines aimed at facilities for producing and extracting cannabis.
– It’s interesting to take a glance at this because they have had legal production facilities over there for a couple of years now, and they have identified several elements of danger, says Mikael N. Gam, a fire safety consultant with DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire & Security Technogogy.
Heat, CO2 and alcohol
Some of these dangers are related to the plants’ need for light. They require light for up to 18 hours a day, and it must be full-spectrum, which is typically achieved by means of incandescent bulbs, which also emit a great deal of heat.
– In addition, it also requires the addition of CO2 to the air in order to ensure optimal photosynthesis, which means gas bottles, which in the event of a fire pose a risk in themselves. Furthermore, the equipment poses a risk of leakages and carbon monoxide poisoning in the event of a fire, says Mikael N. Gam.
On top of that, the plants grow quickly, and this can make it difficult to gain an overview and hamper the fire fighters’ visibility in their efforts to extinguish the fire. At the same time, the plants are moved around the production facilities, depending on their size, which can block access routes and escape routes.
– When it comes to extracting the substances in the plant, this is done in the production facility with the help of flammable substances, for example, methane, alcohol or CO2. In addition, the production facilities are often protected against theft and break-ins, and this protection must be arranged in such a way that allows the fire fighting service to gain access quickly in the event of a fire, adds Mikael N. Gam.
Newer, but not more dangerous
Therefore, the task in hand is to deal with all the potential fire technical challenges. There is no single solution, but it is important to think about the layout thoroughly. Moreover, the fire fighting authorities must be aware of any particular risks when they respond to an emergency.
– There are aspects of cannabis production that can lead to problems when it comes to fighting a fire. It is not, as such, any more dangerous than many other things, but it is a new area and therefore we should perhaps take a look at the American guidelines in the area, concludes Mikael N. Gam.