Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall has confirmed Cal Fire personnel staffing the August Complex Fire have reported multiple encounters with illegal cannabis growers, on one occasion being robbed of a water pump essential for firefighting efforts. Sheriff Kendall said the water pump theft occurred on Monday, September 28, along Mina Road outside of Round Valley.
A Cal Fire public information officer told us they could not speak to these issues specifically and referred us to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Cal Fire personnel who spoke to Sheriff Kendall, firefighters were approached by illegal cannabis growers who demanded Cal Fire’s water tenders be used to water illegal cannabis gardens. Kendall was told that Cal Fire personnel refused and carried on with their firefighting duties. The Cal Fire personnel explained to Kendall upon returning to the site Monday morning where they had encountered the cannabis growers, they found their gas-powered water pump gone.
Sheriff Kendall explained that illegal cannabis growers rely on a network of water delivery services that have been cut off since the August Complex began. Due to the necessity of access roads to expedite firefighting efforts, law enforcement has stopped allowing these water deliveries to the backcountry, Sheriff Kendall said.
Sheriff Kendall also spoke of reports he has received from firefighters in the field of laser pointers being directed at personnel throughout the night.
Sheriff Kendall said he expected more reports of these sorts of encounters because most fire personnel who have experienced them are still on the fire line and are not in a position to be reporting to law enforcement immediately.
While documenting the August Complex fire in the Lake Pillsbury region, Citizen Journalist Dylan Pankow told us he spoke with a Mendocino National Forest law enforcement officer about encounters with illegal cannabis growers. The law enforcement officer told Pankow cannabis growers had attempted to gain access to their grow sites in the disaster area by falsifying press passes. The officer told Pankow the fake press passes were “3’’x5’’ index cards with ‘PRESS’” written on them.”
Sheriff Matt Kendall, in a recent statement on the MCSO Facebook page, spoke to a concerning rise in crime associated with the illegal cannabis industry, saying, “The violence has become too much for our county to carry. Now is the time to stop pretending the illegal marijuana trade is a good thing.”