The only thing fire fighters were able to salvage from a house fire that destroyed a home in suburban Moorebank, was a small bag of clothing.
But while fighting the flames, emergency services couldn’t help but notice a sophisticated hydroponic set-up, and the 34-year-old man occupier arrived just as police discovered that three rooms were allegedly being used to grow cannabis.
Reports say the man lived in the house with his partner and two young children, and although no one was home during the blaze, a litter of three puppies tragically lost their lives.
The man was later arrested and charged with cultivating a prohibited plant by enhanced indoor means. He was granted conditional bail and will appear in Liverpool Local Court next month. He may face additional charges of exposing a child to the cultivation of a prohibited plant.
Much of the ‘fruit’ of the man’s alleged efforts has been destroyed by the fire, but if it is alleged that there was more than a small quantity of cannabis plants (5 plants) but not more than a commercial quantity (250 plants), he could face imprisonment of up to 10 years as well as a hefty fine.
If it is alleged to be more than a commercial quantity but less that the large commercial quantity (1000 plants), he faces up to 15 years in prison. And if it is more than a large commercial quantity, the maximum prison term is 20 years.
Although the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, police suspect it was started by an electrical fault caused by the hydroponic set up.
Neighbours’ photos of the blaze show thick plumes of smoke, with one neighbour trying to extinguish the flames using a garden hose.
It is the second Sydney house allegedly containing cannabis crops to go up in flames in as many months.
Police recently raided a property in Peakhurst, in Sydney’s south, seizing approximately 70 cannabis plants with an estimated value of $200,000. A 25-year old man was arrested and charged with cannabis cultivation over that incident.
Several days after charges were laid, the house was severely damaged in a fire which police are treating as ‘suspicious’. Investigators say there was evidence of a flammable liquid being used in a several rooms. Police are determining whether arson charges should be pressed over the fire.