An illegal marijuana farm lit up a home-destroying northern California fire in 2015 that took out 96 buildings. Two suspects were on the run as officials announced the case Wednesday.
43 homes and 53 outbuildings were destroyed before the Rocky fire was contained. It was Lake County’s second most destructive fire in 2015. And it was just one of five known marijuana-related Northern California wildfires in 2015, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. At least four more such fires have been reported in 2016 so far.
More than 69,000 acres burned in the Rocky fire, according to CalFire. The stated cause of the fire, as of August 14 last year, was “Outdoor Gas Water Heater Failure.” A CalFire map of the blaze shows the progression of the Lake county incident, which spread across county lines.
Wednesday’s announcement revealed that the two suspects have fled the country. Approximately 100 marijuana plants were growing near the fire-causing water heater that California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Janet Upton said was “strapped to a tree” and “not very safe,” according to the Chronicle report. Upton indicated that CalFire may begin breaking out marijuana-related fires into a separate category. It was unclear whether the nine marijuana fires in two years was an increase in that type of fire.
Four fires in just Calaveras County from June 14 to July 11 were the result of “negligent use of equipment and improperly installed electrical systems on cannabis cultivation sites,” according to a Calveras Enterprise report on CalFire information.
In 2012, a firefighter on duty encountered a marijuana farmer whothreatened him with a shotgun. A CalFire release stated that firefighters in Mendocino County “frequently come upon marijuana gardens in their routine duties, they typically ignore them and go about their duties.”
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