A drought-fueled inferno that began in California this week intensified on Tuesday, destroying homes, scorching dry brush and timber, and putting hundreds of cannabis plants in jeopardy.
The blaze, which started Monday about 30 miles south of San Jose, had reduced at least two houses to rubble and threatened more than 300 buildings by Tuesday afternoon. No injuries had been reported at the time, but property damage was widespread.
Firefighters have struggled to control the wildfire in the face of tinder-dry humidity and temperatures in the upper 90s. Difficult terrain and other obstacles have also slowed responders’ efforts to extinguish the flames, the Associated Press reports:
One remote area where the fire burned is 30 minutes up a winding dirt road. Another is dotted with large-scale marijuana growing operations. A main route along the ridgetop is not accessible, even to firefighters, because of downed utility lines.
Resident Anthony Lopez, who grows cannabis plants, returned to his home Tuesday despite still being under evacuation orders. The AP reports he was “overjoyed” to find his dozens of cannabis plants still standing—and his 1972 Buick Skylark uncharred—but other growers haven’t been so lucky.
Last month another Northern California fire caused more than $10 million in damages—including cannabis plants that belonged to Lower Lake resident James McCauley. The plants were effectively destroyed after being coated by bright pink fire retardant, and newspapers around the world showed him weeping over the lost crop.
“This fire is a good reminder that even though we are approaching October, this time of year is historically when we experience the largest and most damaging wildfires,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the AP.
Farmers of cannabis and other agricultural products in California have long worried over water supplies in the state, and concerns have deepened as the weather grows hotter and dryer. A provision of Prop. 64, a measure on November’s ballot that would legalize cannabis for adult use in California, goes so far as to prohibit additional cultivation in regional watersheds that can’t support it. But as this summer’s wildfires show, a warming climate can mean more than water woes for California growers.
Lead Photo: AP/Noah Berger