MCSO: Crews working to open more Mendocino County roads near August Complex

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said Saturday morning that recent weather conditions were still helping suppression efforts on the August Complex fire, and “the good news for us is we’re getting some Damage Assessment Teams moving in and working on Forest Highway 7 (FH7) and those areas.”

“We had a big conversation with (Cal Fire) this morning about re-population of the M1 and FH7, and we’re going to be working on that today,” Kendall told KYBU Community Radio in Round Valley during a regular fire update Sept. 19. “No promises, but it looks better. And Cal Fire is just as invested as we are in getting people back into their places.”

MCSO Lt. Shannon Barney said one of the complicating factors regarding re-population of the M1 and (also known as Indian Dick Road) and FH7 was that the portion of the fire nearest the roads was technically in the South Zone of the August Complex fire (being managed by the national forest service), while Cal Fire is managing the West Zone of the fire.

“So the Cal Fire operation guys on the West Zone are going to be working with the (South Zone) operational guys to get assessments on the ground as far as re-population,” Barney said.

At least one cannabis farmer who said she has 5,000 plants on her property “only 1/5 of a mile up Indian Dick Road” has been anxiously waiting for the road to reopen again so she can water a crop she said had “received only a trickle in the past two weeks.”

And with the skies clearer and the temperatures warming up Friday, Alexandra Collins-DelSordo was even more concerned about getting a water truck up to her plants, which she said “would die in a few days and I will lose everything.

“Fully legal cannabis farms pay an insane amount of money to operate,” she said, describing herself and others growing marijuana legally as “paying an insane amount of money to the state, the county, fish and wildlife, the water board, and we have to go find engineers and pass all sorts of regulations. Then in a crisis, we get dumped.”

Collins-DelSordo said Friday she had been trying for three days to get a water truck to her property, scrambling to get permission from the California Highway Patrol and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Offices before being stopped at a roadblock by Cal Fire, and felt she was being discriminated against because she was growing marijuana.

Lew Chichester of KYBU Radio said he has been fielding calls and questions from people with all sorts of properties and projects along ridges near the fire zone, and knows of at least 15 people with cannabis farms along the same road as Collins-DelSordo who have been allowed into the area to check on their properties, but not to drive in a water truck.

“Those trucks are as big as a fire engine,” said Chichester, describing the route to the farms as a “narrow, steep dirt road.” During the Friday afternoon update with Kendall and Barney, Chichester said “not allowing commercial water trucks up there totally makes sense to me,” but since “the question keeps coming up, could you please give the explanation again as to why you’re not going to let a water truck up there.”

“One of the main concerns is we still have active fire coming down the mountain toward the ranger station,” said Barney, adding that, “some of the trucks we’ve been seeing running around out there are not in the best condition, and the fear is if they break down, or somebody gets (stuck) on those itty bitty roads, you can have fire crews trapped between the escape route and the fire coming at them.”

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