A video of Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeal briefing the community on California’s Rim fire surfaced online today, and in it he said that “we know [the fire]‘s human-caused, as there was no lightning in the area…and we highly suspect there might be some sort of illicit grove, some sort of marijuana-type grove thing.”
The fire started in a remote area Stanislaus National Park known as Jawbone Ridge. The area is familiar to locals not only for the ruggedness of its terrain, but for the recent appearances of “marijuana plantations” in its more inhospitable reaches.
“We know that these illegal pot growers are out in our forests, and I think this fire just wiped out a whole bunch of them,” said Randy Hanvelt, chairman of the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, told the San Jose Mercury News. “It’s a problem in all the Sierra forests. When we find them, we pull out like 20,000 plants at a time.”
Satellite imagery of the fire does indicate that it began in an area known for illegal marijuana production, but McNeal’s statement is the first to directly ascribe blame to any party for the blaze which is, at this time, the fourth largest fire in California history. The U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection both say that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Raw Story attempted to contact Chief McNeal but was told by a representative of Twain Harte Fire & Rescue that he was unavailable for comment. When asked if TH Fire & Rescue had an official response to its Chief’s claim, the representative said “we have nothing to say about Chief Todd’s speculation right now.”
See the video of Chief McNeal’s briefing below:
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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