WEST COAST, United States – The fires are still burning, some uncontrolled, in hundreds of hot spots across California, Oregon, and Washington State.
As of October 6, Cal-Fire reported there have been more than 8,000 fires in California so far this year, with more than 4 million acres scorched. The hardest hit areas are in Northern California, affecting multiple counties including those in the legendary Emerald Triangle; 100-foot high flames are being powered by high winds and hot weather.
In Oregon, as of September 29, one million acres had burned in 468 wildfires with nearly 2,300 residences destroyed, as well as an additional 1,503 structures. In southern Oregon where cannabis and wine grapes are important crops, farmers fear their harvests have been smoke-damaged.
More than 700,000 acres have been damaged by wildfires this year in Washington State, but much-needed rain has aided containment. On Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management lifted fire restrictions on federal public lands in twenty of the state’s eastern counties.
The largest of the California fires and the largest in the state’s history—the August Complex Fire—was started by lightning strikes and has been burning since mid-August. Experts have speculated it could join the aggressive Zogg Fire, which ignited recently on September 27. The fires are burning in Mendocino and Lake counties.
The Glass Fire, which started within hours of the Zogg Fire, has burned down a dozen wineries and other landmarks in the Napa-Sonoma area. Both of these most recent fires already have consumed huge swathes of forest, farmland, and rural neighborhoods.
There have been fatalities in each state as a result of the historic fires, including at least one firefighter. Thousands of firefighters are on the front lines, from countries as far away as Israel.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported, “As of October 1, there have been 44,253 wildfires that have burned 7,672,398 acres this year. This is 1.5 million more acres burned than the ten-year average.” The agency also said this year’s fires number more than the total fires over the ten-year average. “As of September 30, the majority of fires in ten states are burning in National Forests (fifty-eight fires in thirty forests, totaling 3,447,660 acres) and are under the control of the United States Forest Service, or National Parks (fires in four parks totaling 15,242 acres) and are under the control of the National Park Service. Some fires are controlled by states, the Bureau of Land Management, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”
Though there are no official reports yet about damage caused to legal cannabis businesses in affected areas, many residents and business owners in fire-prone regions are experiencing apocalyptic conditions for the second or third year in a row.
The fires also come at a time when outdoor growers are preparing to harvest, between September and October, but fears that the crops will be smoke-tainted have encouraged some to harvest plants early.
To add to the uncertainty, the second installment of the HEROES Act federal pandemic relief package that was introduced in Congress last week contains a provision that would allow legal cannabis businesses access to regular banking services. Senate must still approve the stimulus bill, among many other issues facing lawmakers in the month before the 2020 presidential election. However, there is little indication that cannabis industry businesses will be able eligible for any other federal disaster relief, as cannabis is still a Schedule I controlled substance and federally prohibited, despite being state-legal.
So, it almost goes without saying, with the combined hardships presented by an unprecedented fire season and difficult pandemic restrictions, many cannabis industry members could find themselves in dire need of assistance or resources.
Oregon cannabis businesses have established a fundraiser for communities impacted by the fires. The Jackson County Fire Relief Fund will benefit the United Way of Jackson County Fire Fund, and is sponsored by local cannabis businesses including Belushi’s Farm, Benson Arbor, Curaleaf, Select, Grown Rogue, House of Leaves, and Redwood Cannabis.
“Our lives all changed in a shocking manner as the Almeda Fire burned through the communities of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, and Medford, and the Obenchain Fire impacted Eagle Point, Shady Cove, and Butte Falls. So many families, friends, and neighbors have all been impacted—including thousands who lost their homes and possessions. Many more have been being evacuated and displaced. In a span of a few hours, in the midst of an already challenging year, the lives of thousands across Jackson County have been forever changed, in a tragic manner that we are still trying to fully comprehend,” the GiveLively fundraiser page read.
So far, more than $70,000 of a $420,000 goal has been donated.
Mendocino-based producer Henry’s Original is providing support for evacuees and farmers in Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, and Sonoma counties. The company has offered to store other growers’ licensed products on a first come, first serve basis. Interested parties may email Henry’s for more information.
After witnessing the devastation caused by this year’s wildfires, San Diego-based Platinum Vape decided to donate $5000 to the Cal-Fire Benevolent Foundation, an organization that supports firefighters and their families in times of personal crisis.
“We want to thank all the brave firefighters for putting their lives on the line and we pray that these flames are put out soon,” the company said.
Los Angeles brand Mondo, a company known for its dissolvable CBD powder, said it “recognized the tremendous strain on frontline workers who have been selflessly helping others and taking care of their communities.” In an effort to support firefighters, healthcare professionals, and government workers, Mondo is offering a free jar of its CBD powder to “help resolve some of the pain and anxiety they may be experiencing during these trying times.” First responders may register for the giveaway at MondoCBD.com
Santa Rosa, California-based cannabis producer CannaCraft currently is under threat from the Glass Fire. The company has contributed thousands of dollars worth of product to wildfire and flooding victims over the past few years. During last year’s Kincade Fire, the company opened its offices and facility to shelter evacuated employees and their families.
In a recent interview, CannaCraft Chief Executive Officer Jim Hourigan described the company’s previous community relief efforts to The North Bay Business Journal:
“In October 2017, CannaCraft opened its doors to the Red Cross. Donating unused (and used) office space, kitchen areas, showers, etc. to the Red Cross for their regional headquarters,” Hourigan said. “Red Cross volunteers and employees shared space with CannaCraft employees for nearly a month, with several Red Cross affiliates using the office for lodging. CannaCraft’s marketing department was home to several cots during this time. During this time, CannaCraft also donated nearly $200k in cannabis products to people and business effected by the California fires.”
There’s little doubt, the need for donations and relief efforts from the 2020 wildfires will be greater than ever.