Illegal Marijuana Grows Pose Serious Risks for Northern California Firefighters


When firefighters battling the Hirz Fire near Shasta Lake discovered an illegal marijuana grow site, they had only one option – walk away. Not only do illegal grow sites typically pose the immediate threat of the criminals protecting them, most of them also contain a deadly pesticide that could be very harmful to anyone nearby

Illegal grow sites are known to use the illegal pesticide Carbofuran, which is used to kill any animals that make their way to the pot plants. The pesticide is dangerous to come in contact with and can be even more toxic if it’s burnt. One teaspoon of Carbofuran could kill a 300-pound bear.

“Firefighters have seen it in the woods. It’s pink. It’s a pink powder and it’s very visible when it’s out there,” Safety Officer Josh Courtright said to KRCR. “Carbofuran is used to kill wildlife, squirrels, rabbits, and small mammals. It’s a toxic substance and we don’t want firefighters coming in contact with that and becoming ill,”

Firefighters have also heard gunshots in the area, which many deem to be warning shots from protectors of illegal grow sites. It’s been communicated to firefighters that come in contact with an illegal grow site to just walk away, potentially hindering containment progression.

In the past, many of these illegal grow sites are the doing of Mexican drug cartel workers, whose operations are backed by organized crime wealth and the marijuana is then trafficked all over the country.

The marijuana field at the Hirz Fire is just one instance, but it could indicate future issues when encountering such sites. As fires continue to burn through the dense wilderness of Northern California, firefighters must also consider encounters with armed criminals and deadly pesticides.

Illegal marijuana grows have become a significant issue for lawmakers in California. Earlier in the year, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott set forward his California marijuana policies, announcing that his concerns don’t lie within the recreational market, but rather the massive marijuana grows in the dense wilderness of federal lands in Northern California. He said that U.S., state and local authorities will target the illegal grows with $2.5 million in federal money, especially the grow operations that use toxic pesticides.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Isnt it a requirement for all firefighters to wear protective masks when fighting fires regardless what type of smoke they are inhaling?

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