Saturday, July 3, 2021

California's current huge fire is an area where there's been "escalating conflict" over the marijuana farms operated by Hmong immigrants

Firefighters thought they had put the fire out, but were badly mistaken, possibly underestimating how dry the area had become. Efforts to fight the fire have been complicated by local politics:

Residents watched in horror as the blaze swelled to 10 acres, then 80, then 220. Containment dropped to 25%. Evacuation warnings were issued for some areas. By Monday evening, they became evacuation orders. The fire jumped Highway 97.

Tensions boiled over into violence as law enforcement officers were helping to evacuate the Mt. Shasta Vista subdivision, which is home to a large complex of cannabis farms run primarily by Hmong families. Some have been battling Siskiyou County over water restrictions.

Around 8:30 p.m., a man allegedly tried to drive around a roadblock and pointed a handgun at officers, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s deputies, as well as officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Etna Police Department, shot and killed him, authorities said.
In May, the SacBee had a long article describing the Hmong settlement of the area, and the current conflict:
Law enforcement officers are aggressively enforcing ordinances that prohibit well owners from selling and trucking water to pot farms, most of them owned and tended by the farmers of Hmong and Chinese descent. Thousands of their greenhouse have quickly replaced a few square miles of juniper and brush in the Big Springs area in just a few years.

At the same time, deputies are threatening to cite local businesses supplying the cannabis farms with soil, lumber and other materials that amount to “aiding and abetting in the illegal activity,” the sheriff’s office said earlier this month on Facebook.