Firefighters struggled again overnight to stop the spread of the wildfires being fanned by the dry Diablo winds. At least 23 people have died, as the firestorms surprise town after town, giving residents sometimes only minutes to evacuate. The wildfires are among the deadliest in California’s history and have sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles away.
The Situation in Northern California
Howling winds that drove what started as brush fires into roaring firestorms, have forced residents in Northern California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys into a “grab what you can and run” situation.
“It traveled 16 miles in an instant, it seemed,” said Napa County Fire Chief Barry Bierman. “It just came roaring over the hills, down through some dry brush.”
Some 60 prison inmates have joined hard-pressed firefighters in battling the fast-moving blazes, the state fire chief said.
Among the areas scorched by the 22 blazes are numerous marijuana farms.
Local cannabis growers are seeing their crops, nearing harvest, engulfed in flames, their delicate flowers contaminated by smoke and their facilities burned to the ground in minutes.
Cannabis farms and growers, unlike others, are not in a position to collect insurance or compensation for the devastating loss of their crops.
“Nobody right now has insurance,” Nikki Lastreto, secretary of the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association told CNN. “They might have insurance on their house, but not on their crop.”
Prohibited under federal law, cannabis businesses have no recourse, reprieve or federal disaster relief funds.
Upcoming Cannabis Harvest Devastated
Derek Peterson, CEO of Terre Tech, estimates that weed farmers often invest up to $5 million in their facilities and as much as $3 million on growing the crop itself.
“If their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won’t be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim,” Peterson said. “There’s no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss.”
The fires in Mendocino are south of the famed Humboldt County grows, but it’s still a part of the Emerald Triangle, which is comprised of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, known for producing some of the best cannabis in the country. So far, most of this area, while threatened, has been spared.
Josh Drayton, the spokesman for the California Cannabis Industry Association (CGA), said it’s too early to tell just how many of the state’s estimated 10,000 to 15,000 weed farms have burned down.
He expects “the devastation is going to be larger than anybody would hope it to be.”
Final Hit: California’s Wildfires Are Devastating Upcoming Cannabis Harvest
This year’s harvest was expected to be California’s largest as the state gears up for January’s full legalization. Now, according to the California Growers Association, the fires have devastated state’s billion-dollar harvest.
CGA Executive Director Hezekiah Allen said the fires in Sonoma and Mendocino counties have caused “the worst year on record for California’s growers.”