A remote property on Nixon Road that once housed a huge underground bunker to grow marijuana was the scene of yet another hillside fire.
Chilliwack Fire Department officials got the call Monday morning after neighbours reported seeing some smoke, said Assistant Fire Chief Ian Josephson.
That makes three fires, including a torched vehicle, at the hillside property since 2009 when the massive grow-op was busted, uncovering underground growing rooms with more than 11,000 plants worth about $3 million.
At the time it was dismantled, it was called the largest and most sophisticated pot-growing operation Chilliwack RCMP had ever seen, complete with hydraulic lifts, booby traps and water diverted from a nearby creek.
This week fire crews found the remains of an outbuilding or small barn that had been probably burned overnight Sunday, Josephson said.
Several Nixon Road residents have reported concerns about continued illegal activities and buildings being ransacked at the site which can be accessed through an unlocked gate.
“There were at least two structure fires, including the house last winter,” Josephson said.
Complicating the issue is the fact that the grow-op property was seized by the provincial government through civil forfeiture, according to city officials.
“It’s up to the provincial government to do something about blocking off access to this property,” Josephson said.
Either that or wait for it to be sold, and hope the new owner will secure it.
The hillside property is reportedly up for sale for more than a million dollars.
One of the complicating factors was a court order preventing the previous owner from returning to the property after the police raid, so the grow-op damage was never remediated.
The hands of city enforcement officials are now “tied” to some extent, unless bylaw violations can be proven such as unsightly premises, or unless the province can be pressured to take action on the file.
“It’s a nuisance for us in terms of utilizing our resources, but it’s even more of a nuisance for the neighbours, who are concerned for their safety,” said the fire official.
One area resident, who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the Nixon Road property has “become the Bailey dump” for every criminal in the Fraser Valley.
“They stripped and torched a pickup there a couple of weeks ago. There is bad stuff going on and it’s an ongoing crime scene.
“But everyone says their hands are tied.”