As the effects of untethered global warming become more impactful each year, preparation becomes a necessity. For cannabis farmers that means fire preparedness. Being prepared often means creating new habits and routines.
Clean up leaves and fallen branches after pruning trees or mowing. One suggestion is to then take all of the branches, put them through the wood chipper, and set them aside to weather during the winter months. Leaves, grass cuttings, and other compost can be mixed together and used as a top dressing for the cannabis beds.
Regular electrical inspections are a must. Checking any electrical supply lines and fixtures for frayed wires, proper fuses, and system grounding can stop problems before they start. Also, be sure to install smoke detectors in any buildings that are in use.
Many people are unaware that hot vehicle engines, when parked in tall grass, can start a fire. Have suitable parking available for any and all visitors.
An automated drip irrigation system is a big help. If you place timers and solenoids on each branch of the system and the main supply line the timers continue watering the crop, even if you’re forced to evacuate.
On the topic of evacuation, have an alternate escape route. Fires are unpredictable and move quicker than you might anticipate. If a fire cuts off your typical exit, be sure to have a backup plan, and clear that road of fallen limbs and excess brush regularly.
California cannabis farmers should also know that there is an emergency clause in the California cannabis regulations and Metrc guidelines that allows for a licensed distributor to evacuate cannabis with emergency documentation. Farmers are allowed to transport their cannabis off the premises if they provide 24 hours notice and the location is secured and has restricted access.
If you’ve survived a fire without needing to be evacuated, there’s still work to be done. Undoubtedly, ash has fallen on the crops. A leaf blower is a great first step to clean off the plants. Then, a clear water spray on the leaf tops and backs rinses off the ashes without making a lye paste. This water spray rinse helps to open the stomata on the underside of the leaves and facilitates better plant “breathing.”
If you have concerns about smoke contamination on your crop you can dunk each branch in diluted hydrogen peroxide, then rinse in a 55-gallon drum of clean water (changing the water after every four plants). You’d then need to test all cultivars for any contaminants.
The key to fire preparedness is routine checks and maintenance and staying informed.
CalFire also has a list of recommendations: