Calgary

Grow-op sparked massive Citadel fire

A Calgary man has been charged in a massive fire that destroyed five houses in the northwest neighbourhood of Citadel last year.

Suspect fled without alerting 911 or neighbours, police allege

Blizzard conditions made it difficult for fire crews to fight the Citadel blaze in December 2009. ((Courtesy Todd Jones))

A Calgary man has been charged in a massive fire that destroyed five houses in the northwest neighbourhood of Citadel last year.

A marijuana grow operation in one basement sparked the blaze on Dec. 5, 2009, and quickly spread to neighbouring homes on Citadel Forest Place N.W., investigators revealed on Wednesday.

The fire gutted five houses, caused major damage to two others, and destroyed 12 vehicles. Total damages were estimated at $3.8 million.

The blaze left 11 people with only the clothes on their backs, and killed four dogs and eight cats. Blizzard conditions hampered fire crews in putting out the flames.

Police charged a 33-year-old man on Wednesday with 16 counts of arson by negligence, one count of production/manufacturing of drugs and one count of theft of electricity.

Investigators believe the suspect arrived at the home just as the fire started around 3:45 a.m., and unsuccessfully tried to rescue his two dogs.

He then fled the scene without calling 911, or alerting his sleeping neighbours, allege police.

The suspect's name cannot be released until the charges are sworn, explained police.

A house containing a grow-op is 20 times more likely to catch fire compared to a normal residence, said the arson unit and Calgary Fire Department.

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