Wildfires of disaster proportions in Northern California are wreaking havoc on cannabis crops.
As of Monday night, ten people are dead from the fires and more than 100 others are being treated for injuries. Not of least concern is damage to property, which will not only leave residents without homes but also severely hinder local industries. 1,500 structures have been destroyed and 57,000 acres consumed by the fire, according to a report from CNN.
Several cannabis companies north of San Francisco have been directly affected by the fires. The California Growers Association said that a third of its 18 regional leaders were either being evacuated or assisting neighbors who were.
“We’re expecting some pretty significant property damage,” CGA Executive Director Hezekiah Allen told SFGate. “As damage numbers emerge, it’s going to be pretty stunning on all fronts, and certainly our membership has been directly impacted.”
Several other cultivators who have spoken publicly about damage done by the wildfire. Erich Pearson, director of SPARC farms, who posted on Facebook that though the fire was a ridge away, he and other employees were refusing to leave their crop, which was meant to be harvested this week.
Outdoor cannabis crops bloom during wildfire season so the stakes are high for area growers. If they can hold on long enough to get through the fires, cultivators can get out with their crops for the year, even if they end up with a slightly different flavor profile, one with “a smoky flavor to it; just like wine,” according to Kristin Nevedal of the International Cannabis Farmers Association.
But even if a crop survives the fires, exposure smoke can also cause them to fall victim to disease, fungus, mildew, and mold.
Some companies are waiting to see how the situation unfolds. CannaCraft, a major grower out of Santa Rosa, has told its 110 employees to stay home. If they’re evacuated from their homes, they’re welcome to come to the company’s headquarters which is outside the evacuation home. Orginacann also closed its business on Monday.
Sonoma County alone is home to between 3,000 and 9,000 marijuana grow sites, according to county surveys. The season’s wildfires are also affecting Southern California, where a fire has spread over 4,000 acres in Anaheim.
Photo via Flickr user U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service