DIY Fire Rigs Help Farmers Protect Their Cannabis Crops
DIY Fire Rigs Help Farmers Protect Their Cannabis Crops
Culture

With Little Official Help, NoCal Cannabis Farmers Take A DIY Approach To Fire Fighting

DIY Fire Rigs Help Farmers Protect Their Cannabis Crops
Culture

With Little Official Help, NoCal Cannabis Farmers Take A DIY Approach To Fire Fighting

Author James Eason
Published Jul 24, 2021
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The cannabis-producing Emerald Triangle of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties in Northern California is a remote hard-to-get-to area. It includes some of the most dangerous terrain and some of the hardest-hit fire zones.

The frequency and proximity of fire incidents have spurred DIY action among the area’s growers under the motto “Protecting ourselves, from ourselves”—an acknowledgment that humans start many wildfires and should take responsibility. Some of the residents are also becoming certified in official firefighting techniques, and then bringing that knowledge to the community.

Local grower Robert Steffano went to fire academy training in 1995 in California, then became chief of the Palo Verde Volunteer Fire Department in Humboldt in the early 2000s. Such departments are essential to keeping towns in Humboldt safe. 

“Our local volunteer fire department is a community base of growers coming together and going, ‘We’re on our own out here, man, we better figure something out,’” Steffano said.

John Wilhelm is president of the board of directors at the volunteer fire department and operates Kingsview Farms in southern Humboldt County. He says it’s not uncommon to see members of the community come out to help prevent wildfires and, as with last year’s fire season, stay behind and help put out the flames. 

“It’s really been the core of our community out here for over 40 years,” Wilhelm said.

Younger growers new to the area are also joining in. 

“I’m trying to get as trained as possible and just be as prepared as possible… it’s terrifying when you see the fires coming,” said 34-year-old Matthew Quittenton, a grower in Salmon Creek. “I’m doing firefighting for self-preservation, and also the preservation of my community.”

Still, Quittenton, Steffano, and Wilhelm agree; the community is what’s keeping Humboldt as safe as it can be from fires. 

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