Satan might have felt at home on the West Coast during 2020, where dry, hot, and windy weather created ideal conditions for flames that marauded through millions of acres for weeks on end, destroying property, livelihoods, and lives. Some blamed the blazes on lax forest management or pyromaniacs with too much free time, while others called the devastation the best evidence yet of the imminent danger from climate change.
In California alone, CAL FIRE reported 8,200 fires burned well over 4 million acres, doubling the previous annual record. Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado also went up in flames. The full impact on the cannabis industry is still being assessed as farmers tend to their damaged crops and hope the flower will pass lab tests. Meanwhile, distributors and retail outlets nervously wait for the Croptober harvest to come in and replenish retail shelves.
The pandemic has made 2020 a difficult year for everyone, but the fires have put a grim exclamation point on a year in which cannabis farmers and other operators have had to demonstrate more resilience than ever.
In the Northern Coast Range of California, the August Complex fire started in mid-August after dry lightning strikes ignited thirty-eight separate blazes in the region. With strong winds fueling flames over rugged, mountainous terrain, fires blazed a path through all three counties in the Emerald Triangle, home to some of the biggest and most well-established cannabis farms in the United States. The August Complex burned a 100-mile-long path covering nearly one million acres.
Jeff, who preferred not to use his last name, established Little Hill Cultivators in 2011 on a mountaintop in Trinity County. The outpost was one of the first licensed grows in the region. When fire began an inexorable creep toward his farm, he remained optimistic