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Marijuana Grows Destroyed By California Wildfires — But It’s Unclear How Many

AP Photo / Noah Berger

A firefighter runs while trying to save a home as a wildfire tears through Lakeport, Calif. on Tuesday, July 31, 2018.

AP Photo / Noah Berger

In 2017, Zach’s marijuana farm was destroyed during the Redwood Complex Fire near Mendocino.

“Last year was just tragic on so many levels,” Zach recalled.

And now this year, the Mendocino Complex Fire destroyed his home in early August.

Zach — who moved to California four years ago and whose last name we are withholding — says his new cannabis farm remains intact for now. But all the wildfires are taking a toll on him. He says if his farm burns down this fire season, he doesn’t think he’ll stay in the industry.

“It’s brought a lot of questions about whether or not I even want to live here anymore,” Zach said. “It’s tough because as a community we’ve gone through a lot of trauma together.”

The Mendocino Complex Fire, consisting of the Ranch and River fires and that has now burned more acreage than any blaze in California history, lies a couple miles east of Highway 101 near the town of Hopland, where a strip of cannabis farmers grow their crop.

There are an estimated 10,000 marijuana growers in Mendocino County. But it’s unclear how many farms have been affected by the Complex fire because that information isn’t tracked by Cal Fire.

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 added that, today, the industry is more knowledgeable about how cannabis is affected by wildfires.

“Last year we learned cannabis is very resilient to fires,” Allen said. 

In fact, 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.

 marijuanawildfire

Nadine Sebai

Temporary State Government Reporter

Nadine Sebai is Capital Public Radio’s temporary state government reporter. Nadine is also a co-editor of Local Matters, a weekly newsletter showcasing investigative and watchdog news stories from local publications across the country.  Read Full Bio 

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