Marijuana Farmer Named 'Smoke' Arrested on Suspicion of Starting Massive Wildfire
A man allegedly delivering soil additives to an illegal marijuana grow site was arrested on Friday night on suspicion of starting a wildfire in Shasta County, California.
The fire started around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and has so far burned 3,700 acres. The blaze was just 10 percent contained as of Sunday afternoon.
"It's a very unforgiving land," California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection spokesman Dennis Mathisen told the Chronicle. "We are close to 1,100 firefighters on the fire right now, and we're fighting it both from the ground and in the air. And it's hot - it's very, very, hot."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the fire allegedly started when Freddie Alexander Smoke III, 37, drove a large, rented truck off the road 25 miles southwest of Redding. The truck's exhaust system ignited dry grass and started the massive blaze.
Smoke was charged with recklessly causing a fire and cultivating unauthorized marijuana, both felonies. Additionally, the Shasta County Marijuana Eradication Team seized 180 plants from the farmer's illegal grow site.
The fire has already destroyed six structures and several vehicles, and 65 other structures, including 15 homes, remained threatened by the fire as of Sunday evening, according to the Times.
The Shasta County wildfire is just the latest in a series of blazes amidst some of the worst fire conditions firefighters have ever seen in the region. A fire that broke out Friday in a remote part of the Sequoia National Forest has already burned 1,200 acres and is just 5 percent contained as of Sunday, according to ABC 30. Last week, a vegetation fire in Monticello burned nearly 6,500 acres and caused three injuries.
Firefighters say the California drought, believed to be the worst the state has ever experienced, is causing exceptionally dry fuels to spread fires faster.