SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — One person has been arrested in connection with nearly 100 marijuana plants found this morning within the Loma Fire area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman said.
The Sheriff’s Office’s Marijuana Eradication Team served a search warrant for an illegal marijuana grow around 8:30 a.m. at a rural property near Loma Chiquita and Loma Prieta roads, sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Glennon said.
The blaze started Sept. 26 not far from where the raid took place in the southern section of county. It had burned through 4,474 acres and was 94 percent contained as of this morning, Cal Fire officials said.
Deputies arrested a male suspect who hasn’t been identified in connection with the grow operation that included 89 marijuana plants, many that stood more than 12 feet tall and one that weighed 44 pounds, Glennon said.
The site is close to where the fire began, but there’s no indication that the grow is related to the cause of the fire, Glennon said.
Multiple greenhouses were found on the property, but some were destroyed in the fire, according to Glennon.
If deputies can’t actually see the marijuana from the public road or from the air, getting a search warrant is difficult.
“Just because we get a tip that there is a marijuana grow on someone’s property, private landowners still have 4th amendment rights so we can’t just go walk onto properties without that probable cause for a search warrant,” Glennon said.
Now that deputies can easily see the grows, the marijuana eradication team is in a race against time to investigate the properties and if needed, confiscate the possible evidence before someone else does.
Deputies have been able to gain more knowledge of the area as firefighters continued to battle the blaze and law enforcement officials conducted evacuations, Glennon said.
The team has conducted five operations near the property so far this year, he said.
Personnel from the county’s Office of Code Enforcement, state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Cal Fire also went to the grow site today to look into other alleged violations, Glennon said.
Anyone with information on the grow or others in the county has been asked to call the Marijuana Eradication Team at (408) 808-4420.
A dozen homes and 16 outbuildings have been destroyed by the fire, which has also damaged one residence and at one point threatened hundreds of other homes, Cal Fire officials said.
Roughly five firefighters were treated for minor injuries since the blaze began, according to Cal Fire.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Evacuations orders were lifted Tuesday morning in Santa Clara
County and last week in Santa Cruz County, according to sheriff’s officials.
There were 716 firefighters sent to battle the fire. It is expected to reach full containment by Saturday, according to Cal Fire.
In the coming weeks, crews expect to stay at the scene to mop up, patrol and remove their equipment, Cal Fire officials said.
A local emergency resolution approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors allows the county to seek assistance from neighboring jurisdictions or the state in its restoration efforts from the Loma Fire.
The ratified resolution allows the county to request reimbursement for costs in fighting the fire, County Executive Jeff Smith said at Tuesday’s board meeting in San Jose.
Cal Fire crews are aware of people collecting money to help the fire base camp at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, but the agency can’t accept or solicit donations under state law, according to the agency.
Those who would like to donate food or goods to people affected by the fire can send them to The Salvation Army in Gilroy and Santa Cruz or Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville.
Monetary donations can be made through the American Red Cross at https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation.
© Copyright 2016 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.