POLICE have spoken out after a cannabis factory with more than 200 plants was found in Huddersfield.
The factory was found at neighbouring terraced houses in Newsome when one caught fire.
Police fear such operations are left unmanned and if a blaze was to break out in the middle of the night it could spread to neighbouring houses, killing innocent people.
Police also stress that cannabis remains an illegal drug and young people caught smoking it will be arrested.
Their parents will be told and police will try to get them into drug intervention treatment.
People charged with producing cannabis face up to 14 years in prison.
The terraced houses at Manor Street caught fire on Friday afternoon, destroying the roof of one of them.
Cannabis growing needs a lot of electricity to power special hydroponic lights, which give off a great deal of heat.
Insp David Glover, of Huddersfield Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "My great fear is this fire risk and the danger that someone could die.
"It could be that one of the lamps falls over or a fire could be caused by an electrical fault, with so much strain being put on the system.
"If people are caught producing cannabis they can face long jail sentences and could lose their homes if they are council tenants."
He said police were working closely with Kirklees Council.
One family recently caught growing cannabis in their Crosland Moor home face the threat of eviction as they have broken the terms of their tenancy agreement.
Last week a young Huddersfield couple were fined £100 each by the town's magistrates for growing three cannabis plant at the woman's home.
Sgt Paul Denton is investigating the Newsome cannabis factory.
He said: "There were more than 200 plants in various growing processes.
"This was a big operation and the smell of cannabis should have been picked up by people living nearby.
"If people do get the strong smell of cannabis in their street then let us know immediately.
"We were tipped off in Lockwood last year and discovered a cannabis-growing factory there.
"Cannabis cannot be grown on this scale without the smell being emitted, usually through hot air vents. It is a sweet, pungent odour."
The cause of the Newsome fire is still being investigated, but is thought to be linked to the cannabis-growing operation.
The fire started in the attic, where the cannabis was being dried out. It badly damaged the roof.
Firefighters discovered the cannabis factory when they doused the blaze. They told police, who found that the factory also spread into the house next door.
Both houses are privately rented.
Earlier this month police found nearly 200 cannabis plants at a house in Batley and 12 in Dewsbury Moor.
Landlords have been urged to be more vigilant.
Sgt Denton also stressed the policy on cannabis possession.
Anyone can be arrested for possessing cannabis and the policy in Huddersfield is to arrest anyone aged under 18. They will then face a reprimand, final warning or charge.
After one reprimand any further offence would lead to a final warning or charge.
Even if they escape with a final warning they will be referred to the Youth Offending Team.
Adults can get away with a street caution - but that's certainly not always the case - and will depend on their behaviour at the time.
When cannabis was controversially reclassified from a Class B to a class C drug in January, 2004, the main change was that the maximum punishment for possession fell from five years to two years in jail.
But the maximum penalty for supplying, dealing, production and trafficking rose from nine years imprisonment to 14.
In December, 2005, the Advisory Council On The Misuse Of Drugs told the Government about the hazards of cannabis.
It urged the Government to do more to educate people about the harm that cannabis can do and the services available for people hooked on it.
It also called for major research to be done into the links between cannabis and mental health.
It added that people with schizophrenia were particularly vulnerable.
* Anyone with information about cannabis production should contact Huddersfield Neighbourhood Policing Team on 01484 436672.
Alternatively, they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
STREET website www.urban75.com features drugs information and neither condemns nor condones drug use.
Main points are:
* Cannabis impairs mental functions such as attention, memory and performance. So it can be dangerous for drivers and people who operate heavy machinery. It does not increase risk-taking behaviour.
* Occasional use can pose significant dangers for people with heart and circulation disorders and for those with schizophrenia.
* For many people smoking cannabis is as everyday as a brew of hot tea. It helps to make their life a little less stressful, without unduly affecting judgement or abilities.
* It can turn other people into spaced-out, lazy hippies.
* Its effects can vary wildly from one person to another, with factors like where you are, who you're with and your state of mind all influencing the experience.