Since mid-August, wildfires have burned through more than 1 million acres of California land. It’s another echo of a recurring environmental catastrophe in a state that more than 5,000 licensed cannabis growers call home.
The firebreaks on the Sweet Creek property helped soften the impact of the Lnu Lightning Complex fires.
For Keala Peterson, whose family runs a farmstead in the hills above Santa Rosa, the Lnu Lightning Complex fires have brought swift devastation to her property, Sweet Creek Farm. When we spoke with her on Aug. 25, she said that some 95% of the property had been torched by the fast-moving fires.
At Sweet Creek, Peterson’s family had been growing Hawaiian sativa cultivars and other hybrids (among their many vegetable crops, as well). The cannabis buds hadn’t set when we spoke with Peterson, and she was hopeful that perhaps the smoke and ash of the blaze hadn’t settled on the flowers themselves. “We’re not holding our breath, but that’s a little bit of a silver lining,” she said.
On Aug. 19, Peterson was in Santa Rosa, where she lives with her husband, paying close attention to what was happening up on the ridgelines.
“I was watching the camera that faces kind of directly over the property, and I saw this glowing fire wall,” she said. “It was unbelievable.” She spoke with her mother, who was already packing the bags, and decided to head up the mountain to meet her family.
The property was pretty well safeguarded against certain kinds of fire. Peterson’s father is a retired firefighter and a vocal proponent of good fire safety practices. By nightfall, the scope of the wildfire in the hills was clear.
“We could clearly see the fire coming over the ridgeline and torching 30-ft. pine trees in a flash,” she