A suspected pot grower driving off-road in northern California to tend his marijuana plants may have started a wildfire that has destroyed more than 4,400 acres, injured two people, and damaged nine homes.
Freddie Alexander Smoke III, of Sacramento, was arrested Friday and accused of starting the wildfire. Police believe the fire started when Smoke drove his truck into the dry vegetation to work on his farm, on which 180 marijuana plants were found, and the exhaust sparked to ignite the blaze, the Los Angeles Times reported
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Eight homes were damaged and one was destroyed by the blaze; others are in the fire area and about 1,800 firefighters are battling the blaze to try to keep those homes safe.
Cal Fire said the wildfire had grown to burn 4,700 acres
Monday and was about 15 percent contained. The government site that tracks fires throughout the state also increased the number of structures damaged to 18, and said as many as 50 more are threatened. Mandatory evacuation notices have been issued and a shelter was established at a local elementary school.
According to Cal Fire, the number of California fires are up for 2014, with 3,198 fires burning 27,770 acres from Jan. 1 through July 12. For the same time period last year, the state saw 2,849 fires, but those fires burned more acreage at 38,572. Looking at an average over the last five years for January to mid-July period, California reported 2.315 fires burning 23,434 acres.
The state has increased funds for fighting wildfires and fire officials warned of the possible perils this year with dry conditions, the Sacramento Bee said. By July 5, just days after the July 1 fiscal year began, the state had spent $13.9 million fighting two fires.
"We’re not even to the peak of the fire season yet," Daniel Berlant, Cal Fire spokesperson, told the Sacramento Bee
. “We’re not just saying it’s dry, it’s not just a mantra. We are seeing the effects now. We are absolutely seeing increased fire activity and numbers.”
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