California Investigators said Tuesday they believe marijuana growers with possible ties to Mexican drug cartels caused an 88,650-acre wildfire in northern Santa Barbara County, and there are many more pot farms hidden in remote areas around the nation.
“No pun intended, it’s a growing problem,” U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Russ Arthur said.
Arthur said an unspecified “cooking device” left at an encampment by suspected drug traffickers sparked the blaze on Aug. 8 that has scorched more than 137 square miles of brush and timber and briefly threatened two dozen ranches and homes.
About 30,000 marijuana plants and an AK-47 assault rifle were found near the origin of the blaze in a remote canyon in Los Padres National Forest, authorities said at a news conference. Arthur said the plants’ quality is similar to marijuana linked to Mexican drug cartels, though he acknowledged the investigation into the link was ongoing.