TOULUMNE COUNTY –
Investigators spent the day in Groveland trying to determine the “official” cause of the Rim Fire, even though one authority has already suggested that an illegal pot growing operation may have started it.
“We are seeing historic record breaking low fuel moistures both in the live fuels and the dead fuels,” explained Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeil.
McNeil has been on the Rim Fire line since the first day.
“Don’t let the fire progression be a reflection of the quality of personnel assigned to this incident. We are dealing with very atypical conditions,” said McNeil.
During a community briefing posted on YouTube, McNeil said humans started the fire.
“So it started down in the brush. We know it’s human cause there was no lightening in the area, but we don’t know the exact cause,” said McNeil.
District Ranger Maggie Dodd with the Stanislaus National Forest told FOX40 the fire originated in the back country of Groveland just north of the Clavey River in very steep terrain, confirming McNeil’s location for the fire, but declining to comment on what McNeil thinks caused it.
“We highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana grow-type thing,” said McNeil.
It is widely reported that national forest deal with pot growers starting fires. In 2009, the Los Padres National Forest wildfire burned 90,000 acres near Santa Barbara. The cause: a camp fire from an illegal marijuana grower.
So, McNeil’s preliminary report could be right on point. But that’s something we are not going to know until the “official” cause of the wildfire has been released.