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Cal Fire Concerned Over Santa Cruz County Pot Farm Fire Hazards

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Illegal marijuana garden. Santa Clara Sheriffs are doing a large marijuana eradication project near Mt Madonna, Gilroy. (Santa Clara Sheriff)

Illegal marijuana garden. Santa Clara Sheriffs are doing a large marijuana eradication project near Mt Madonna, Gilroy. (Santa Clara Sheriff)

MelissaCulross_180 Melissa Culross
Melissa Culross had intended to become a novelist but was side-lined...
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SANTA CRUZ (KCBS)— Cal Fire is concerned about a growing number of marijuana gardens in Santa Cruz County, not because of the pot, but because of the fire hazards associated with the illegal clearing of trees.

Cal Fire Division Chief Rich Sampson said cutting trees in wildfire areas requires a permit from the state as well as a licensed timber operator to do the actual cutting and that people aren’t thinking about the trees they’re cutting to make room for their gardens.

“A lot of trees are just dropped into piles and they don’t treat the slash from the trees properly. It becomes a very large fire hazard,” he said.

Sampson said Cal Fire opened 22 unlawful timber operations cases related to marijuana gardens in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2011, as opposed to three such cases in 2010.

“In these cases a lot of people were camping out in the wild to tend to these particular agricultural crops. We’ve encountered several additional fires in areas that we don’t expect people to be in and they’re associated with marijuana grows,” Sampson explained.

Under state law medical marijuana users can grow pot legally, but many growers still are not obtaining the appropriate permits.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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