Well-funded legal marijuana darling Flow Kana admits one of their lawnmowers sparked last week’s Broiler Fire, which forced 250 evacuations while burning 80 acres and three homes.
Northern California’s illegal cannabis farms have a long and unfortunate history of making wildfire season worse, with unsafe practices or bogarting water. A most recent example came in late June when illegal pot farmers blocked Cal Fire crews from fighting the Lava Fire near Mount Shasta. But we’ve yet to see a legal and licensed recreational cannabis company start a significant California wildfire, particularly a legal cannabis company flush with $150 million in venture capital.
Until last week. An 80-acre Mendocino County blaze called the Broiler Fire started last Wednesday, and on Friday, a recreational cannabis company called Flow Cannabis admitted one of their workers started the blaze. Flow Cannabis is the parent company of boutique cannabis brand Flow Kana, who as of last year were California’s biggest outdoor-grown weed brand.
FLOW CANNABIS EMPLOYEE STARTED #BROILERFIRE WHILE MOWING. The #BroilerFire in Redwood Valley in #Mendocino County destroyed 9 structures, including housing. A Flow employee was mowing at 2:44 PM when the mower hit a rock and sparked a wildland fire. #OnlyYou pic.twitter.com/EBhqUavpDn— Sarah Stierch (@Sarah_Stierch) July 9, 2021
The above apology was posted by neither Flow Cannabis or Flow Kana, but freelance reporter Sarah Stierch. Flow Kana and Flow Cannabis’ social media feeds have yet to acknowledge the incident.
"Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the stress, anxiety, fear and loss that our Redwood Valley neighbors endured as a result," says the statement from Flow Cannabis president Jarom Fawsom. "Nor can words express how truly grateful we are to the first responders who were immediately on the scene and who, through their heroic and coordinated efforts, prevailed further devastation."
He admits the fire “originated on our property, after the blades of a mower, operated by our employee, struck rock, causing a spark.”
A friend's parents house burned down from the Broiler Fire in Redwood Valley, CA. The parents are retirees. The father owned a music repair shop. The mother worked as a staffer for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Any assistance is appreciated https://t.co/Dp2VjcWAXQ— Raymond Mar (@inin61) July 11, 2021
The cannabis company is getting points for honesty, with Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department Chief Don Dale telling Emerald Triangle news blog Redheaded Blackbelt that Flow Cannabis was “upfront about the whole thing.” That goodwill may not last. The Mendocino Voice obtained a letter to Flow Cannabis from a woman who’d previously been contracted to bring livestock to graze their lawn, and alleges “you chose not to renew my contract with less than 6 weeks notice” when the company switched to machine methods… like lawnmowers.
It’s great for a company based in a rural area to raise $150 million in investment money. But when that company starts a significant wildfire, there will likely be lawsuits from the residents of that rural area.
Related: Entire West Coast Marijuana Crop Threatened By Fire, Smoke, and Ash [SFist]
Image: Alert Wildfire