Wildfires in northern and central California continue to spread, threatening to devour several cannabis farms and devastate the growers financially.
Despite valiant efforts by firefighters from throughout the region, the wildfires are still burning strong. So far, the fires have caused significant damage to cannabis farms in the area, with outdoor grow operations throughout the area threatened.
Sweet Creek Farm Devastation
Kaela Peterson, owner of Sweet Creek Farm, a small, family-run cannabis operation damaged by wildfires in Sonoma County, told Marijuana Business Daily, “There are a ton of farms that are located in the fire’s path. No one’s out of the woods yet. This is just starting.”
Peterson explained that some of the largest fire complexes had not been contained at all or had only been slightly contained by firefighters, exposing cannabis farmers of the region to severe financial losses as the outdoor grows aren’t always insured.
Sweet Creek Farm’ cannabis crop was blackened, with just 20 percent of it surviving the flames. But firefighters still managed to save part of her family’s compound.
Peterson elaborated, “It looks like a wasteland. Pretty much, it’s a total loss.”
Since the cannabis crop wasn’t insured, the Peterson family estimates they will have to absorb approximately $150,000 in losses or more, depending on whether they can salvage the remaining unburned cannabis that hasn’t flowered yet.
“We’re guardedly optimistic that those [unburned marijuana plants] could come to term, but with smoke damage, if the bud has set enough, it’ll just be smoky marijuana, and nobody wants to smoke that,” Peterson explained.
According to Sweet Creek Farm’s Instagram, the Peterson family has lost their home and a beloved garden to the fire that ravaged their property. Some have reached out on their last post—made five days ago—to show their support for Sweet Creek Farm and the family.
Many of these fires have started from lightning, fed by strong winds as they burned through hundreds of thousands of acres of brushland, canyon country, dense forest and rural areas encompassing San Francisco. But the inferno has also burned through wildlands in Sierra Nevada and Southern California.
Santa Cruz cannabis farms have also been affected by the raging wildfire inferno.
WAMM Phytotherapies Evacuation and Possible Damage
Valerie Leveroni Corral, the founder of medical cannabis nonprofit WAMM Phytotherapies in Santa Cruz County, told Marijuana Business Daily she believes she’s also lost a farm. But at the time of the interview, she was unsure of her farm’s status as she was forced to evacuate Tuesday, August 18.
Corral explained, “We just found out that probably everything burned” at the WAMM’s farm in northern Santa Cruz county, highlighting that their second farm, located in southern Santa Cruz, has escaped the flames for the time being.
“It’s pretty awful here in Santa Cruz,” Corral continued. “I have to be thankful that no one’s life has been lost.”
Like Sweet Creek Farms, the WAMM farm was uninsured. But Corral is confident her organization will persevere. She and her organization have weathered worse events in the past.
CelebStoner reported that since speaking with Marijuana Business Daily, Corral emailed California NORML executive director, Dale Gieringer, reporting, “Heard later that it may not have burned. So fortunate.” However, it’s still unclear as to whether the fire has damaged the WAMM grow facility.
Mike Corral commented on CelebStoner’s Facebook post, “I know the old Davenport property burned, but there was no WAMM garden there. I do not know about other sites though. I will always cherish the memories of the garden I used to direct. Glad that we have photos at least.”
Preferred Gardens Owner Impressively Optimistic
Another wildfire is burning in Yolo County, threatening Preferred Gardens.
Owner of Preferred Gardens, David Polley, told Marijuana Business Daily that at least 2,000 of his 12,000 cannabis plants have smoke damage. He might have to destroy those plants.
Polley is more worried about winds shifting, carrying the fire south to his farm.
“If this fire doesn’t get under wraps, then everything is going to go down,” Polley explained. “We’re just going to pray that doesn’t happen.”
If the fire moves to Polley’s farm, he could lose millions of dollars and have no other choice but to close his doors permanently after 15 years in operation.
Even as the fire continues burning, Polley remains impressively optimistic, explaining his outlook on the situation.
“I’ve been through all different kinds of hell,” he explained. “This is just another day.”
“Continued fire growth is expected throughout the rest of the operational period,” officials said in an update at 8:21 p.m. on August 24. “Extreme fire behavior with short and long-range spotting are continuing to challenge firefighting efforts. Fires continue to make runs in multiple directions, impacting multiple communities.”
As of August 24, the wildfires have blackened 351,817 acres over the last six days. The fire is now 25 percent contained with five counties affected, including Napa, Sonoma and Solano.
Evacuation orders have been made for Hidden Valley Lake/Jerusalem Valley, east of Middletown and Lower Lake (south). Evacuation warnings have been issued for Middletown and Lower Lake.
At this point, 248 structures have been damaged, 908 structures have been destroyed, 4 people have been injured, and 5 people have lost their lives. Two agencies, 2,194 personnel and 18 crews have partnered with CAL FIRE during this extended emergency.
Resources have been allocated in response to the fires. CAL FIRE’s emergency response air program has 12 helicopters, 304 engines, 41 dozers and 50 water tenders it will use to get the wildfires under control.