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Pot growers responsible for Los Padres forest fire, authorities say

August 15, 2009 | 10:47 pm

Investigators have determined that a week-old wildfire burning in the Los Padres National Forest was started by a cooking fire set by marijuana growers.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials said in a news release today that its narcotics unit and U.S. Forest Service special agents found that the camp where the blaze started was part of a drug organization run by Mexican nationals, who were growing pot plants at the site.

In the weeks before the fire, the sheriff’s narcotics unit had been working to shut down cultivation sites in the area.

 Investigators believe the suspects are still in the forest and trying to escape on foot. The fire has charred 131 square miles and forced the evacuation of more than 230 homes.

-- Associated Press