Redwood Valley Resident and Firefighter on Flow Kana’s Fuel Reduction Practices in the Wake of the Broiler Fire

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Fire personnel positioned to fight the Broiler Fire [Picture by Matt LaFever]

To my community and Flow Cannabis Company (Flow Kana),

My name is Adam Gaska. I am a husband, father of 2 young children, farmer, volunteer firefighter for RVCFD, and a lifelong resident of Redwood Valley. Most of the 42 years of my life have been spent living on Lennix Drive where I was raised and where I am now raising my own children in the same house I grew up in. On July 7th , that house came close to being destroyed by the Broiler Fire which was caused by a Flow Kana employee mowing in the worst possible conditions-high heat, extremely low relative humidity, late afternoon as the wind starts to pick up.

I was one of the first responders to the fire after being toned out at 2:45 for a fire near the Broiler steakhouse described as “1/2 acre in the grass”. I was at home working and spending time with my family. I told them I was responding to a fire on Uva, that it didn’t sound big but be ready. I was in my truck and on my way to the fire station within 2 minutes. As I drove over the Forsythe Creek bridge, I realized the fire was much larger and had already grown to 5-10 acres. I called my wife to prepare to evacuate. Since before the October 2017 fire, we have been prepared to go-bags packed with clothes for a few days, paperwork in a fire safe box, a checklist of things to grab, pet carriers/leashes, etc. After arriving back to the fire to fight it, I called my wife to tell her to leave which she already had. The engine I was on, we positioned ourselves to defend Oak Park trailer park. The fire came in fast, driven by the late afternoon wind. While I am crouched down attacking the fire, spot fires were popping up across the road behind me. Luckily, I was able to put them out and hold my line. Unfortunately, within minutes, I saw the house on Uva and School Way burst into flames. In all, I spent 18 hours on the fire line defending my neighborhood. The fire burned to Smith Lane, which is only a few houses away from my own. Fortunately, due to the efforts of all our first responders, my family was able to return home and sleep soundly in their beds while I continued to extinguish the remaining embers from the fire in Forsythe Creek where I played and swam as a child.

I have a lot of words to describe my feelings. Anxiety. Sadness. Disappointment. Anger.

Since Flow Kana came to my quiet neighborhood, I have had trepidation. Having any kind of industrial processing facility in a small neighborhood is going to have a large impact. I remember the impacts of traffic and noise when it was the Fetzer family winery. I wasn’t overjoyed to learn that again my neighborhood would be impacted. We were told over and over again that Flow Kana wanted to be a good neighbor, that they wanted to have a positive impact on our community. All that was shattered on July 7th.

It is incredulous that a company whose Vice President of Community Development is a board member of the Mendocino Fire Safe Council, a company that seemingly didn’t have an employee fire safety plan or training. The acts of their employee border on criminal stupidity. As the person who runs the fire safety trainings on the farm I help manage, I can’t wrap my head around how they could have been directed to be mowing during the conditions present. I also find it very disappointing that Flow Kana had canceled their grazing contract with my friend, local grazier Ruthie King who is also a local firefighter for Ridgewood Ranch. We know the importance of fuel load abatement. As a company that hangs their hat on sustainability and “The California Way”, one would think they would know the importance of grazing animals in managing our fuel loads because California becomes a tinder box waiting to explode during the summer.

I applaud the public statements made, admitting responsibility and claiming they will accept liability. It remains to be seen if they will actually follow through with reparations. I wait with bated breath.

Because of this, I am asking that Flow Kana’s Vice President step down, relinquish her seat on the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council board of directors. After the incident a few days ago, it is obvious that the purpose and mission of the Fire Safe Council isn’t carried through into the culture of the company that she works for. As financial amends are made for the damages due to the fire, it is a conflict of interest to continue to use her position as an attempt to portray Flow Kana in a positive light, “at the forefront of wildfire prevention”. They should step back and take this moment to learn from and atone for their mistake. Let those with more experience continue to educate the importance of wildfire safety and how that is achieved. It is also clear that Flow Kana should have more onsite equipment, infrastructure, employee training for fire prevention/suppression, especially in these severe drought situations.

Adam Gaska July 10, 2021

Categories: Fire, Op-Ed

1 reply »

  1. The person you are talking about also submitted a letter against the 2 Referendums in Mendocino County county to red headed black belt. She concealed that she worked for flow canna, Citizens for Sustainable Agriculture, and The Fire safety board trying to pose as just a regular concerned community member. I would think that this letter should be unacceptable and goes against flow cannas previous statements about being part of the community. Important information was concealed from the community to push a corporate political agenda. So yes she should step down from all positions.

    Thanks to Adam!

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