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Huge Santa Barbara County wildfire caused by marijuana farm; suspects at large in forest

A fire that has burned more than 75,000 acres in Santa Barbara County over the last week was started in an illegal marijuana growing area operated by a Mexican drug organization, authorities said.

Authorities said they confirmed that the blaze, which is burning out of control, started in a cooking area of the pot farm. They believe those responsible are still in the forest area trying leave the forest by foot. 

"The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit has confirmed that the camp at the origin of the fire was an illegal marijuana operation believed to be run by a Mexican national drug organization," according to a statement from the Los Padres National Forest. "The Narcotics Unit has been working in the area within the last month eradicating other nearby marijuana cultivation sites." 

The location of those who ran the pot farm isn't known, but forest officials warn "not to approach anyone who looks suspicious but to instead contact the nearest law enforcement agency."

The fire, known as the La Brea fire, is now 25% contained. Vicki Collins, a fire information spokeswoman at Los Padres, said that although the La Brea fire was only 10% contained by Friday night, firefighters successfully charred some lines in front of the fire in the Tepusquet Canyon area, depriving the blaze of new fuel. 

Since the fire started Aug. 8, about 234 residences have been evacuated. Collins said if firefighting efforts continue to be successful, residents might be able to get back into their homes within a couple of days. Progress has been slow on this fire because of the low humidity, 90-degree temperatures and remote terrain. 

She said they still have no crews on the ground in some wilderness areas, such as the Sisquoc River area.

 “We have a lot of work ahead of us yet, though things are looking fairly good on a couple flanks of this fire,” Collins said. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with firefighters in the Santa Cruz Mountains who have been battling the Lockheed fire. 

That blaze, which started Wednesday, has burned nearly 7,000 acres. By this morning, the fire was 30% contained, officials said. About 2,400 people have been evacuated in areas including Swanton and Bonny Doon.

 “I want the people here in these communities to know that we will do everything in our power in order to save properties, to save lives and to save their memories,” Schwarzenegger said. “The important thing is also to follow the evacuation orders.” Schwarzenegger said there are 11 fires currently burning across California. He defended the state's investment in fire resources even though it is in a budget crisis. 

Del Walters, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director who spoke at the news conference with the governor, said he worried that the incoming winds and high temperatures in Northern California could worsen the Lockheed fire and also the Corral fire in San Joaquin County. 

That fire has blackened about 15,000 acres and was 20% contained by this morning. 

-- Shelby Grad and Jia-Rui Chong
Comments () | Archives (96)

You can add this fire to the cost of making marijuana illegal. It's time to legalize marijuana.

Once again we see devastating consequences caused not by marijuana but by the war against it; pushing the cultivation of a crop easily grown anywhere into remote areas "occupied" by criminals. The only effective way of putting these criminals out of business and putting an end to the environmental degradation they cause by living in and cultivating the forests is to legalize marijuana cultivation.

Suspicious... whats the law to do? arrest all the mexicans in California legalize mj already its as common as dirt.

This would never happen if Cannabis was legal.

The Mexicans have the same problem we had during Alcohol Prohibition,
the Gangsters have ruined Mexico, and now they're coming over here.
It's all about the Money. Take the Money out of the hands of the Gangs,
put it in the hands of the American Farmers. They are the ones that need it.


Legalize pot. If this fire is an example of how well we have done managing and containing the illegal pot industry, then we have not done very well. If it were a legal farm they'd have had a proper kitchen. The workers would be able to complain to authorities when their conditions were substandard. Etc.

Great.. I bet the LATIMES a million dollars that the criminals that caused the fire illegally entered our country, unlike our legal immigrants who followed the law and are now probably loosing their homes and livelihoods in this fire..

So lets review, the illegal law breakers burn down our forest land, destroy our homes and in exchange we will also use my tax money to rescue them and pay for their medical care.

How is the TIMES going to stand up for these illegals?

Yet another reason to legalize it. Just as during Prohibition fires were
started by moonshiners, and accompanied by violence, the US endures
the same effects from its current prohibition on a safer drug.

Yet another reason to legalize Marijuana...it would send these illegal Mexican cartel growing operations back to Mexico.They cause terrible damage to the forests that they set up operations in with the pesticides and herbicides they use on their crops and divert water from it's normal paths through the forest.They also leave huge amounts of trash when they abandon the site.Let legitimate farmers grow the crops properly on their farms and generate tax revenue for the state instead of huge profits for the cartels.

Are you sure this isn't an episode of Weeds?

"the gift that keeps on giving"

This is what we feared most. The invasion of Mexican crime. Now we are paying.

Yet another reason, among the deluge of reasons, to create a real border.

If marajuna was legal we wouldn't be having these sorts of disasters happening at all.

Clearly not every illegal immigrant is here to work. Isn't it time we got serious about closing our borders? I wonder what La Raza or MALDEF has to say about this?

Remember, 'undocumented' immigrants are only here to do the work lazy Americans won't.

If you're against illegal immigration, you're a racisr.

CA and D.C. politicians have allowed illegal immigrants to continue entering and residing in our country. As a result thousands of Americans have been the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens and thousands of acres of land, hundreds of properties, and several lives have been lost a a result of fires directly attributed to illegal aliens. For this reason, DHS Secty Napolitano and CA Governor Schwarzenegger should immediately be removed from office and charged with dereliction of duty (among other charges).

Mexico is in a Civil War.Let us not repeat the mistakes of the Italian government and write off Sicily and Naples as lost provinces.California,Arizona,New Mexico,and Texas do not deserve to be written off.We don't need fires in the woods to tell us it is out of contro.l
Mexico has shootings,decapitations,mass evacuations,destruction of propety and threats to civilians,tourists, police,and diplomats.
It is costing California taxpayers $48,000 a year to incarcerate the civil war participants.
Why should we incarcerate them? Is there not a country overseas or a state,like Liberia which would enjoy getting $10,000 a year for every prisoner we send them?
The legislators cannot handle these costs and the demands made by frightened prison guards and wardens now subjected to threats of the Mexicans factions.
Let's not California sink into the status of Columbia.

These aren't your 'old school' hippie plots, that if you came across and left alone, there probably would not be any trouble. -These cartel mini-farms are a serious danger to hikers, or anyone interfering w/their operation. -I used to hike off-trail quite a bit, and follow animal trails to reach remote areas. Now, I would not go alone, nor w/o someone knowing a general area of our hike. -And now that we're getting close to harvest time, I wouldn't recommend hiking off trail at all 'till it's over.
-Yea, as far as I remember, the hippies never held a workers's family's hostage, so the worker would live in the wilderness to tend to the plants.

Ok. The la times has gone too far. This is some racist reteric. Why would Mexican drug lords come to Santa barbara to grow weed. If I were a pot farmer I would want a much more rural area and less police presence. Mexico is clearly the better of the two to grow. Did Lou dobbs or glen beck do this investigation. Is the la times that intersted in continuing racist reteroric? First the mexicans infectthe gringos with swine flu and now they are coming over to the white swanky hills of Santa Barbara. Hide your woman and children. Ya viene Los Mexicanos. La times stop the xenophopia and stop spreading fear. Dobbs beck and arpaio have already got that handled.

Legalize it.

It is astounding how much human and natural damage the absurd racist inspired drug laws have inflicted (entirely at the behests of the Unite States) on cultures world wide. Scores in prisons, turning regular citizens into criminals, and laying the foundation for deep mistrust and disillusionment with governments in general. The laws are based on a lie. The damage the laws are doing, and have done, is a fact.


legalize cannabis 2010 across california. hemp too! we have the power californians!!!

this will remove these illegal operations run by the drug cartels. get the profits in the hands of true farmers. cannabis & hemp are excellent rotational crops. they give back energy and nurtrients to the soil. but we need to prevent horrible mishaps like this fire. and legalization is the only way!

yes we cannabis!

More taxpayers' dollars wasted as a result of the "War on Drugs". Except, it would have burned sooner or later anyway.

There is a huge demand for marijuana because americans like to smoke it. This is just another situation that would have been avoided if it was legalized taxed and regulated.

So now the media will spin this into a negative against the legalization of MJ, the Cedar Fire in San Diego '03 was started by a guy that was poaching dear go lost and lit a signal fire AND that fire killed 17 people.
Those idiots shouldn't have been cooking in the wood but shoulda coulda woulda...
Avoid suspicious people = Mexican dudes that come walking of of the woods THAT aren't dressed like wildland firemen.

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