Nate Trujillo sat on a windy ridge and watched California’s largest wildfire, the August Complex, work its way toward the cannabis–growing enclave of Post Mountain-Trinity Pines, where many of the locals are refusing to evacuate.
Law enforcement officers went door to door warning of the danger a few days ago, but “we couldn’t force people to leave,” said Trujillo, a narcotics deputy in the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s mainly growers. And a lot of them, they don’t want to leave because that is their livelihood.”
Trinity Pines alone is home to up to 40 legal farms, with more than 10 times that number of illegal grows hidden off its dirt roads, according to people familiar with this part of the Trinity Alps, inland from Humboldt.
Each farm has crops worth half a million dollars or more, and many are within days or weeks of harvest, making growers wary of leaving vulnerable to either flames or thieves. Among the holdouts are numerous Hmong families, originally from Laos and other Southeast Asian countries, who have moved to the area in recent years, along with Bulgarians and Russians and a smattering of neighbors drawn by the remote beauty of towering cedars and firs.