The Mendocino Complex fire, the largest in California’s history, and the deadly Carr Fire have reportedly burned a combined 600,000 acres throughout northern California, with the most devastating blazes tearing through cannabis country, torching homes, ready-to-harvest farms and packing houses.
While last year’s fires, which destroyed 1.3 million acres and impacted 30 to 40 percent of California’s cannabis growers, this year’s damage is expected to be even worse as the industry has rapidly expanded following legalization of recreational marijuana in January 2018.
Many of the estimated 10,000 marijuana growers in Mendocino County are within some of the driest parts of the state where drought conditions, extreme heat and strong Santa Ana winds have kept the blazes of the Mendocino Complex Fire raging.
Late last month in Greenville, east of Mendocino in Las Plumas County, a massive fire tore through at least eight greenhouses containing some of the California’s most coveted premium herb and destroying five of them. Known as “Terp Town,” the farm is operated by Loudpack, the town’s largest employer, which supplies dispensaries all over the state. None of the facility’s 300 employees were injured or killed, but the company is still assessing the damages.
Also in late-July, to the northwest near Redding in Shasta County, several buildings operated by Alien Labs, another leading cannabis grower, were destroyed in the still expanding Carr Fire that has killed seven people and consumed over 200,000 acres so far.
Over the weekend, police arrested three men in the town of Nice for interfering with a fire operation after they refused to stop watering their cannabis plants and evacuate the area.
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, says information about affected farms may start coming in once the evacuation orders are lifted. He said the industry is more knowledgeable about how cannabis is affected by wildfires.
“Last year we learned cannabis is very resilient to fires,” Allen told Capital Public Radio.
He explained that plants growing close to the flames were often unharmed, and that cannabis sometimes served as a “fuel break” that slowed down or even stopped fires.
According to the latest numbers put out by the California Department of Forestry on August 8, 2108, the fires are not even halfway contained.