Fighting fires on a marijuana grow proves even more dangerous than usual


CHICO, Calif. - Throughout the year, Chico firefighters have their hands full responding to calls for help locally, but during wildfire season, these crews are deployed all over the state to fight several types of fires.

This included going to the North Coast to put out a marijuana grow that had caught fire.

Extinguishing a wildfire is dangerous enough as it is, but imagine tackling flames on a piece of land full of traps."The plants themselves are not the issue, sometimes it's the methods that the growers will use to protect their grows," explained Chico Fire Division Chief John Kelso.

He works in Chico on a daily basis but has had his fair share of traveling to help out in Humboldt and Mendocino County. "Commercial grows, illegal grows, things like that in the wildland interface," said Kelso.

It's a place known for its marijuana, which almost automatically means hazards if and when a fire breaks out.

"Live electrical laying all over," explained Kelso. "We've found booby traps, other things tied to dirty spikes and things like that which would cause a tripping/falling hazard. We've found guide wires, we've never identified what they were hooked to because once we find those things we pull back."

Crews fear those wires are hooked to an explosive or some other kind of trip device to deter intruders from the grow, but firefighters said they're just there to do their job.

"Typically we try to make contact with those growers, share with them what we're trying to do is protect everything and to work with them to make sure that they identify what could get us," Kelso explained.

That's the key to their safety and the drive home message for any growers with land on fire.

"If they could cooperate with us early on, engage with us positively and let us know what those hazards are, we will get in, we will do our job and we will get out," Kelso explained. "And I think it benefits both."

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