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Police Investigate Cannabis Greenhouse Fire in Salinas Valley, California

Cannabis Greenhouses Burned in Salinas Valley
Photo U.S. Air Force


Police Investigate Cannabis Greenhouse Fire in Salinas Valley, California

A fire swept through one of California’s premier cannabis cultivation facilities in the agricultural Salinas Valley, destroying several greenhouses and a large quantity of product. Authorities say an investigation is underway. But the timing of the blaze does raise eyebrows — it started at exactly 4:20 pm.

On July 23, the burgeoning cannabis cultivation industry in a small town on California’s Central Coast was rocked by a greenhouse fire that sent flames shooting high into the air and a thick plume of black smoke billowing to the sky.

The greenhouses belonged to Loudpack Farms — the flagship facility in Greenfield, California’s fast-growing cannabis sector and producer of some of California’s top-rated connoisseur cannabis products. It was hours before the town’s fire department was able to bring it completely under control. The fire departments from the nearby towns of Soledad and King City were also mobilized to the scene.

The blaze apparently started outside one of several greenhouses at the site and rapidly spread, ultimately consuming or damaging at least a dozen.

“The winds pushed it through the greenhouse structures very, very quickly,” a Greenfield fire department spokesman told local TV outlet KSBW. A Monterey Herald report indicates all the greenhouses at the facility were destroyed. The facility apparently had no sprinkler system.

Town authorities say the fire is under investigation. KSBW, Monterey Herald and other media reported that the fire broke out at 4:20 p.m., without commenting on the possible significance of this time.

There are no requirements for cultivators to obtain insurance under the new proposed permanent cannabis regulations from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state department which oversees cannabis cultivation. Only cannabis distribution license-holders must obtain insurance, and the state is working to build avenues for those companies to get quality insurance policies. It’s unclear if Loudpack Farms had any crop insurance, though it is unlikely they did, given the many barriers cannabis companies face toward getting good insurance.

More than 300 people work at Loudpack Farms, which earlier this year became Greenfield’s largest employer. All employees on site at the time of the blaze were evacuated, and no injuries were reported, according to KSBW.

Greenfield city councilmember Avelina Torres told KSBW: “My very first concern was the safety of the people, and I was happy to hear that everyone got out safe. Second thing is loss of jobs, and that’s what I’m concerned about is these people that do have bills to pay, children to raise — I’m hoping that they can continue working.”

Loudpack said in a statement that the fire will “absolutely not” affect employment at the facility.

“We invest in our people. We will rebuild our facility and no one should feel that their job is at risk due to these unfortunate circumstances,” said the statement e-mailed to KSBW.

Loudpack Farms is both the first and largest facility in Greenfield’s burgeoning cannabis industry. In April, the city announced the company had become Greenfield’s single largest employer, Monterey County Weekly reports. The facility is actually located just around the corner from Greenfield City Hall, and is one of 11 cannabis businesses now operating in the town. Municipal officials are betting on cannabis for the town’s economic future, with some $1.7 million in tax revenue from the industry projected for this year.

The blaze comes as fire season is starting in California. Wildfires this week have shut down Yosemite National Park, and closed Highway 299 through the Trinity Alps. But the official map shows that the nearest wildfire to Greenfield is in San Luis Obispo County, some 70 miles to the south. Last year’s fire season took a toll on cannabis cultivation in California, primarily in Napa and Sonoma counties. The Greenfield blaze, however, seems unrelated to any wildfires.

Cannabis industry website Leafly notes that Loudpack shared the facility with DNA Genetics, a cannabis seed company founded in the Netherlands over a decade ago. The facility’s especially fragrant varieties won it the moniker “Terp Town” — for the natural chemical terpenes that produce the fragrances. Strains and extracts produced at the facility have won various awards. Loudpack’s “Jack” strain scored second place for best sativa flower in the 2017 World Cannabis Cup in Jamaica. It also won first place for best CBD cartridge in this year’s SoCal Cannabis Cup, held in April in San Bernardino.

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