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Cannabis operation likely cause of fire

THE fire that destroyed two flats in a block of units in London Street on Monday night was probably caused by heat from a hydroponic cannabis growing operation.

The blaze destroyed the interior of two of the four residential units and caused extensive heat and smoke damage in the other two.

An estimated 16 people lived in the units and now have to find somewhere else to live.

Police detectives and a specialist fire investigator probed the fire scene yesterday to establish the cause.

“It started in a bedroom in one of the ground floor units,” said Detective Sergeant John Love.

“There was nothing suspicious about it. It started accidentally.

“But we have linked the cause to heat from a small hydroponic cannabis-growing operation we found in a downstairs bedroom.”

A 34-year-old man who lived in that unit, along with three other people, has been arrested and charged with cultivating cannabis.

“He will appear in the Gisborne District Court next week,” Det Sgt Love said.

“People carrying out that sort of cannabis production need to be aware of what can go wrong.

“In this case the outcome could have been even more disastrous for the other people living in that housing unit complex.”

All those living in the complex got out safely but lost almost everything they owned, as well as their homes.

Victim Support have been working with the displaced people, in what police describe as a quite a big job.

CAUSE ESTABLISHED: The fire that destroyed two units and damaged two others in a block of flats in London Street was caused by heat from a small hydroponic cannabis operation. A man has been charged. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell