Investigators focus in on propane tanks in Bronx house explosion that killed firefighter. The propane tanks fuel the CO2 generators that are used to spedd up the growth of the pot plants.
By Jim Hoffer
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 07:17PM
NEW YORK (WABC) -- There is new information about what was found inside the Bronx home that exploded, killing a FDNY battalion chief on Tuesday.
There were a lot of pot plants, not only on the second floor but even in the basement.
And if this hot house was like others that have exploded, illegal propane gas tanks were probably being used to speed the pots growth.
But the propane may have also fueled the explosion.
Sources tell Eyewitness News that Con Ed workers looking for a gas leak on 234th Street never picked up any measurable readings neither outside the home nor in the basement prior to the explosion.
That has investigators focusing on propane tanks as the possible source of leaking gas which caused the massive explosion that killed Fire Chief Michael Fahy.
"The explosion comes with great force," said Jim Bullock, NY Fire Consultants.
Former FDNY Fire Chief Bullock says besides smelling just like natural gas, propane can be more explosive.
It's been linked to marijuana grow house blasts in Florida and Colorado.
The burning of propane or natural gas produces pure CO2, but also produces heat and humidity, which can stifle plants. Excessive heat inhibits plant intake of CO2. Growers seeking to avoid adding heat and humidity to grow environments sometimes put their CO2 generators outside the grow rooms and use fans to send CO2 from the generators into rooms via duct systems.
Bullock says the propane gas is used to fuel generators that enrich the air with carbon dioxide, essentially a greenhouse gas that accelerates pot growth, but if the propane leaks and ignites, it's like dynamite.
"That would cause a tremendous explosion. That's why in New York City, LPG or propane tanks are never allowed inside a building," Bullock said.
The NYPD has two men in custody: Julio Salcedo, who rented the home in the Bronx that police say was under investigation as a marijuana grow house; and 32-year-old Garivaldi Castillo, of Washington Heights, who is facing two counts of criminal possession of marijuana.
A source provided Eyewitness News with a picture of a van in the home's driveway.
Several times, he claims he saw big blue barrels unloaded from the van and taken into the house, possibly to hold liquid fertilizer which is highly flammable.
Only a few months ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency warned about the increasing threat of "grow houses" to first responders.
This DEA Intelligence Report stating, "Explosive materials such as propane and butane...pose clear hazards to firefighters or police officers responding to the residence in an emergency situation."
"There are fertilizers and chemicals present and those can lead to a combustible situation," said Jonathan Wilson, DEA Special Agent.
Wilson says marijuana hot houses are ticking time bombs often fueled by dangerous electrical wiring and jerry-rigged propane tanks.
"The propane is used for the CO2 converter that will increase the production of the lab, and that added to faulty wiring makes any indoor grow an accident waiting to happen," Wilson said.
CO2 augmentation is useful in most indoor grow environments, because CO2 speeds plant growth. However, when CO2 is used in rooms that are not properly sealed, the gas can cause health hazards, and is partially wasted when it escapes the grow room instead of being totally absorbed by plants.
CO2 is easily provided by tanks, but tanked CO2 is very expensive compared to that provided by CO2 generators which burn propane or natural gas. (When Hardcore uses propane CO2 generators he uses 100-pound propane tanks instead of smaller tanks to avoid having to do a lot of refill work.)
The use of tanked CO2 can facilitate the killing of spider mites and other pests. In true sealed grow rooms that have no leaks, growers can kill all pests by upping CO2 levels to 10,000 parts per million (ppm) for one hour. Other CO2 augmentation methods are incapable of generating 10,000 ppm for an hour ? only the tank supply method is capable of providing that concentration of CO2. Especially when using 10,000 ppm bug-killing tactics, growers must use safety methods that minimize the health problems that CO2 can cause for humans.
2 arrested on drug charges in Bronx house explosion that killed firefighter, suspect walked
By Josh Einiger
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:29PM
NEW YORK (WABC) -- A second person was arrested on drug charges Wednesday, in connection with the fatal Bronx house explosion that killed an FDNY battalion chief on Tuesday.
The NYPD has two men in custody: Julio Salcedo Contrer, who rented the home in the Bronx that police say was under investigation as a marijuana grow house; and 32-year-old Garivaldi Castillo, of Washington Heights, who is facing two counts of criminal possession of marijuana.
"What do you have to say to these firefighters who are here for their losses?" a reporter asked.
Garivaldi Castillo smirked at the dozens of New York City firefighters who were standing in stony silence as detectives led Castillo to court Wednesday night.
Wednesday morning at Battalion 19, they hung bunting, saluted, and started to say goodbye to their chief Michael Fahy. He was a 44-year-old father of three, a trained lawyer, and a friend.
"Michael Fahy was the nicest guy out of all the nice guys anyone has ever met," said Capt. Brendan Deehan, NYPD Engine 47. "His family was his priority and he loved them more than anything."
Video obtained by exclusively by Eyewitness News shows their frantic attempts to save Fahy's life Wednesday morning, after a giant piece of roof landed on top of him.
Exclusive video obtained by Eyewitness News shows the aftermath immediately a house explosion in the Bronx.
Cops say the building on 234th Street was teeming with pot plants and was a so-called marijuana hot house.
Eyewitness News obtained a picture of a van in the driveway days earlier, from which a neighbor saw blue barrels unloaded and brought inside, possibly holding highly flammable liquid fertilizer.
Only a few months ago, the DEA warned of the dangers of grow houses which use "explosive materials such as propane and butane...that pose clear hazards to first responders."
"The propane is used for the CO 2 converter that will increase the production of the lab and that added to faulty wiring makes any indoor grow an accident waiting to happen," said Jonathan Wilson, DEA Special Agent.
Police say they'd already been investigating Castillo and Julio Salcedo Contrer, who allegedly ran from the home after the blast. They tracked him down in New Jersey, where he's awaiting extradition back to the Bronx.
"We are devoted to getting everyone who was in involved and I'm very certain we will, a lot of effort bringing them to justice," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.