PHOTOS show scenes of destruction after a fire at a cannabis factory ripped through a Southampton home.

A wrecked staircase, charred walls and a tangle of melted cables can be seen in the images shared by police.

Dangling from the ceiling is a ventilation pipe – equipment often used by criminal gangs to grow the class B drug.

The fire damage affected more than two floors of the Winchester Road property, according to data from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS).

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Neighbours had originally reported smoke billowing from an upstairs window but no one was treated for injuries.

Police say their enquiries ‘did not yield any evidence of possible suspects. As such, the investigation was filed, ending any new further information coming to light’.

This means whoever is responsible for the fire in January 2021 is potentially still in the city.

Kevin Lyle of the HIWFRS Investigation Team has given a stark warning saying that large scale cannabis production can present serious fire risks to those inside the factories and to neighbouring properties.  

He said: “We have found evidence of tampered electrics at these premises in the past, which is extremely dangerous and can often spark fires.  

“We always work closely with our Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary partners to investigate the cause of these fires.”  

Daily Echo: HIWFRS Investigation TeamHIWFRS Investigation Team (Image: HIWFRS)

Today the Daily Echo can reveal that fire crews were called out to ten incidents at cannabis factories between January 2019 and the end of 2022. 

Data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request shows that these involved faulty electrics, overheating, a heat source and combustibles being brought together deliberately, and even cooking. 

Three of these fires were in Southampton – two of which were deliberate.

One was in Eastleigh and another in the New Forest

Daily Echo: Police outside a house in Barton Road, Eastleigh, after a firePolice outside a house in Barton Road, Eastleigh, after a fire (Image: Daily Echo)

Three were in Portsmouth, and the others in Havant - caused by cooking - and Rushmoor.

According to the data, the incidents in Southampton were in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

HIWFRS refused to share exact locations stating ‘it would lead to the identification of individuals which would be unfair’ under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

However, based on previous reports, the Echo can confirm fires in Ripstone Gardens, 2019, Winchester Road, 2021, and Oakley Road in 2022.

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However, there have been a further two incidents involving cannabis factories in the city this year, not covered by the FOI request.

The Echo has reported on six police raids at properties in the first two months of 2023 - three of these have been in a small area of Northam.

Emergency crews stumbled upon around 300 plants when they were called to a fire caused by shoddy electrics at a terraced home on Radcliffe Road in February.

Daily Echo: Police in Radcliffe Road, Southampton after a cannabis factory fire Police in Radcliffe Road, Southampton after a cannabis factory fire (Image: Daily Echo)

Days later police found another illegal enterprise in a mechanics workshop on the same street.

In January, police taped off Portswood Road when a warehouse, and crime scene, went up in flames.

Video footage from the night shows smoke pouring across the night sky.

Criminals had been able to grow ‘591 cannabis plants’ in the building tucked behind the Victory Gospel Church, however, the operation was raided in December.

Police can’t say if it was an arson attack as the site needs to be made safe so investigators can enter.

It is currently being treated as unexplained with police saying there are no updates on their investigation.

Daily Echo: Cannabis grown in a warehouse in Millbank Street, SouthamptonCannabis grown in a warehouse in Millbank Street, Southampton (Image: Hampshire police)

What do residents say?

Tony Clark has lived on Radcliffe Road for 40 years.

Concerning a solution, he said: “I think more coppers on the beat like it used to be years ago, now you could look at me saying “well, of course, you would say that, you’re an old pensioner, but we have been proved right so many times.

“The police cars stopping someone doing 36 on the 30mph limit isn’t really solving crime in the area.”

Daily Echo: Tony ClarkTony Clark (Image: Daily Echo)

The 68-year-old added: “What we need to do is have police officers walking the beat like they used to years ago. Because if they do that, they will in a very short period of time get to know people around here.

“But you don’t get that in police cars, you get that with people walking around.”

Barbara Nickson, an Augustine Road resident since 2009, said: “I think landlords should take a more active part, if they inspected their properties within a month of lettings they would see what’s happening. 

“But a lot of landlords don’t bother.”

Other residents who wished to remain unnamed voiced their concerns over ‘dangerous’ house fires.

However, they also expressed concern about general drug use in the Northam area. 

What are police doing to stop cannabis factories?

The deputy district commander of Southampton, Chief Inspector Marcus Kennedy has said that police are aware of cannabis factories across the city district recently.

And, that police have taken action to disrupt local drug-related activity and protect people who may be vulnerable to drug-related harm. 

Daily Echo: Chief Inspector Marcus KennedyChief Inspector Marcus Kennedy (Image: Daily Echo)

He said: “We will continue to target cannabis factories in the city as part of our drive towards tackling serious and organised criminality in the city and I don’t apologise for that.

“We know that local residents will think, it is just a bit of cannabis and that this is not a ‘big issue’, but we want to stress that any production of drugs is linked to hidden harm. 

“Large-scale operations like cannabis factories – whether set up in abandoned buildings/warehouses or even in residential properties - are often run by organised crime gangs. Those gangs are likely to engage in very serious violence involving weapons, such as firearms. They may also take advantage of vulnerable people, exploiting them or making them work in servitude. 

“The electrical requirement to grow the large quantity of plants that we have located, seized and destroyed from many of these factories is also really dangerous. It can prove to be a huge fire risk, putting neighbouring properties, and lives in danger.” 

Daily Echo: Police in Pitt Road after raiding a cannabis factoryPolice in Pitt Road after raiding a cannabis factory (Image: Daily Echo)

The Chief Inspector has warned that cannabis production is linked to serious criminality.

He says the force is ‘really keen’ to hear from people suspicious of cannabis cultivation or drug-related activity in their neighbourhood. 

He added: “We work very closely in tandem with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service to support any ongoing investigations, where required, into incidents involving arson or fires as a result of bypassing electric meters or electrical faults in these cannabis factories. “Those incidents that we believe may have criminal involvement will be thoroughly investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”

The police chief for Southampton has stressed that every report made by residents is logged and helps officers build an intelligence picture of what is happening in the city.