FIREFIGHTERS uncovered a cannabis farm after being called out to tackle a blaze in the stairwell of a block of flats.
The blaze started inside a cupboard on the ground-floor flat of the three-storey block, in Stubbington Avenue, North End.
Firefighters discovered that electricity for the block was being bypassed, which caused an overload in the cupboard’s electrical equipment and resulted in the fire.
Investigators found hydroponic equipment and two cannabis plants in the top-floor flat. The occupant was not around when the fire broke out.
Six fire engines were sent to the property – two from Southsea, two from Cosham, one from St Mary’s and one from Portchester – at 6.41pm on Sunday.
All the occupants had safely got out of the building by the time crews arrived.
After putting out the fire with a hose reel and clearing the property of smoke with a pressure ventilator, firefighters then made sure the building was safe.
Terry Marsh, 60, of Northern Parade, North End, acts as landlord of the property on behalf of his elderly parents, who own it.
He said: ‘One of the tenants called to tell me about the fire and I came down as quickly as I could.
‘When I saw that the road was blocked and all the fire engines and police, I thought it must be big.
‘I felt so helpless just standing there watching the firefighters put it out.
‘But I had to wait and see what the damage was.
‘There is a bit of damage to the house but it could’ve been much worse.
‘The main thing is that everyone’s safe – a building can always be rebuilt.’
Mr Marsh says he knew nothing about the cannabis found on the property.
A 42-year-old man from Portsmouth has been arrested in connection with possessing the plants and stealing electricity.
He has been bailed until January 14 pending further enquiries.
Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident but they are continuing forensic investigations and door-to-door inquiries.
A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘Police were called to a property at Stubbington Avenue, in North End, at 7.03pm on Sunday.
‘They recovered two cannabis plants and arrested a 42-year-old man on suspicion of being in consumption of a Class A drug and using electricity without permission.’
Anyone who has any information about illegal drugs in their community is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.