Vehicle Fire by Table Bluff Spread Into the Dunes Before Being Contained.

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Oct. 12 @ 9:45 p.m. / Fire!

Fire under Lighthouse Ranch on the access road through the dunes. [Photos by Mike]

According to a witness, a SUV type vehicle on fire sent flames leaping into the dunes near Table Bluff. According to a Cal Fire spokesperson, the fire spread from the vehicle located on the South Spit by the restrooms into dune grass. The vehicle was fully involved in flames when fire crews reached the site.

A Cal Fire Battalion Chief and an engine as well as two hand crews from High Rock were joined by the Loleta Fire Department with their chief, three engines and a water tender at the fire. The fire is now under control but crews are still on site mopping up.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.


Paraglider Wing Escapes Flyer, Hits Power Line

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Oct. 12 @ 4 p.m. / News

UPDATE 10:10 p.m.:

The paraglider not long before he went down. [See more of Hadyn Verboon-best’s photography here. Click on this photo to enlarge.]


According to Samoa Fire Chief Dale Unea, a powered paraglider had landed in the Samoa area near the Coast Guard Station when the arced “wing” or kite blew away. It flew into a nearby electric line shorting out power for the Coast Guard Station.

Previously, witnesses reported that two large paragliders been flying low. Apparently, they both landed and were attempting takeoff again when, as one flyer was attempting to start the large fan that powers the paraglider, the sail escaped and shorted out power to the area. Samoa Fire Department responded. The roads were closed and PG&E had to be called to restore electricity. However, there were no injuries.

Past the fire engine, a paraglider “wing” is caught on electrical wire. [Photo provided by Samoa Fire Chief Dale Unea.]


When Problems Strike Marijuana Gardens, Do Growers Stay With Organic Solutions or Do They Turn Elsewhere?

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Oct. 12 @ 2:47 p.m. / marijuana

Marijuana plant that the grower said was experiencing broad mite infestation.

To spray insecticides, pesticides or miticides on cannabis and possibly poison the harvest, or not to spray and possibly lose your crop and your livelihood? That is a dilemma faced by many marijuana growers each year. Most pot growers say their plants are organic, but when their garden is threatened, how do they really respond? Do they apply non-organic solutions? Does criminalizing cannabis make good farming practices difficult?

This summer, much of the greenery in the garden of a cannabis farmer we’ll call Chris (not the grower’s real name), was turning brown and it wasn’t just the leaves. “On a lot of my flowers, the pistils were prematurely stunted. There were branches with shriveled buds and lots of prematurely brown hairs,” the Emerald Triangle grower explained. The leaves, she said, went prematurely yellow and died. (See photo above.) According to Chris, some of the plants looked perfectly healthy one day and four days later had completely withered away.

Until recently, when problems struck in marijuana gardens, even long-time growers had a difficult time finding solutions. Cannabis farmers who often work alone and in secrecy can be faced with diseases and pests that they don’t know how to fight. Fearful of turning the eyes of law enforcement or thieves toward their patches, they don’t want to ask for help, and unlike farmers of other valuable crops, they don’t have government or universities working to help them. In the past, they have had to rely on word-of-mouth solutions from fellow growers. That is changing now. Access to the internet and a new crop of local businesses are helping growers produce healthier plants using science that benefits the farmer and the end consumer. 

Chris, the Humboldt grower with the shriveled buds, talked with fellow growers and did research on the internet in order to identify the cause of the stunted buds. In the end, she decided the affected plants had a broad mite infestation.

Sometimes the internet and other growers can help a cannabis farmer make an accurate diagnosis, but other times they don’t. Broad mites, russet mites and fusarium (known issues affecting cannabis) have similar symptoms but are not treated the same way, explained Kevin Jodrey of Wonderland Nursery in Southern Humboldt. Getting exact diagnoses from lab tests can help the growers improve their situation this year, he said, and teach them to put in place healthy practices that will reduce the chance of having repeat problems in ensuing years.

As 2016 and the possibility of marijuana legalization approach, Joanna Berg, part owner of Dirty Business, a new Arcata based firm that tests cannabis and other plants for various diseases and pests, as well as analyzes soil, explained growers need to step up their game and become more scientific about their farming procedures. “Getting real information and improving practices is an important strategy for our future,” Berg said.

Berg and Jodrey both recommend getting samples of plants that look unhealthy into a lab. When a grower sees a problem, Jodrey said, “first thing to do is get [the plant] tested.” Tests can take several weeks to get results but often a consultant can make recommendations almost immediately.

Jodrey explained that there has been a big increase in issues with mites and fusarium in the last few years. “People can move so freely about,” he said, which makes it more likely that diseases and pests hitchhike on from one garden to another. And there is more marijuana being grown, making it easier for pests to move from an unhealthy garden to the neighbor’s healthy one.

But to Chris the grower, how the plants contracted the problem was not the biggest worry. She needed to know how to salvage her harvest. Unlike many growers, Chris was lucky. The small piece of property she owned was paid off. But, a bad harvest could mean that all the money already invested in the garden was lost. “I put every last penny into this garden,” she explained. Now she was worried about how to make money from plants that might be dying. Other growers are often faced with losing their home and vehicles if their harvest fails.

Online marijuana forums insisted that the only solution to broad mites was to spray Avid, a powerful insecticide/miticide used legally on ornamental plants but not considered safe for food products. Legally the substance (and many others like it) can only be used on plants for which it has been approved. Cannabis is not one of those plants. Anecdotal evidence suggests that being exposed to Avid can lead to serious symptoms and the warning label cautions that if inhaled call “a poison control center or doctor” or “[i]f person is not breathing, call 911 or ambulance… .” The label also cautions, “This pesticide is toxic to fish and wildlife.”

Chris was concerned about possible side effects but decided that Avid must be applied. It was just a business decision. “Either you use that or you lose everything,” she reasoned.

Chris asked someone to go to the garden store and pick up the needed items. Soon the individual called her up. The woman was very upset. Other customers and the store clerk had convinced her that applying the substance would poison not only the marijuana but the person applying it. After listening and considering the options carefully, Chris chose not to use Avid or any non-organic solution.

According to both Jodrey and Berg, Chris made the right decision, though they understand the temptation to use such substances. Berg said, “A broad mite infestation can take down a whole crop… . This is people’s livelihoods. People get into a panic. They reach for something strong that will knock [the mites] back.”

Beyond that, Jodrey explained there is pride involved. “Nobody wants to admit their plants are dying. Their ego is directly connected to their garden. It’s not just profit.”

However, Berg explained the downsides of using “heavy-chemie pesticides.” When growers begin doing this, she said, “I think they are shooting their whole community in the foot.” There are several reasons for not using these substances, but one of the obvious concerns, she said, was that the growers often don’t correctly apply the substances. This can lead to the pests building up a resistance. Then, “they get really, really resistant buggers in there, and that’s no good.” 

By late summer, Chris the grower was hearing rumors from neighbors that the broad mite infestation was spreading through much of the Emerald Triangle’s marijuana gardens. Any farmer faced with losing a season’s worth of labor might be afraid. In an underground economy where it is difficult to get solid information, fear can turn to panic. Chris’ belief that the broad mite infestation was of epidemic proportions wasn’t supported by either Jodrey or Berg’s experience. However, both indicated that a larger number of growers than usual had experienced issues with not only broad mites but also russet mites and fusarium.

Nonetheless, with limited access to good information and only reports from fellow farmers to go on, Chris believed that gardens across the Emerald Triangle were being destroyed by broad mite. By September, Chris was fatalistic. “I’m honestly preparing to lose everything,” the she explained. Though Chris later realized that it wasn’t true, initially she thought every plant in the garden showed signs of broad mites. Chris began planning how to keep the property if the plants didn’t produce salable buds. “It means that I get a trim job. Then I move to the Bay Area and try to get a job down there,” she explained.

Chris worried that “if a lot of people are getting this [infestation], the scramble for jobs is going to be insane. I don’t see how I’m going to get a trim job. The likelihood that I’m going to find enough employment to live around here is low.” She also worried that the only growers with harvests would be those who had used a heavy miticide. “The other issue is do I want to work for people who sprayed their plants with Avid?” she asked. After a pause, she admitted wryly, “I’m trying not to be hysterical… .”

Eventually, like many other farmers with broad mite infested plants, Chris used an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved product to fight the infestation. “It stopped [the mites] in their tracks,” she wrote in an email to the Outpost. “At the end of the day I lost maybe 1/3? Not too bad and I didn’t have to use the poison!” 

Both Berg and Jodrey say that the best way to prevent problems with marijuana is not to wait until problems begin to show. They say it is best to start with nutritious soil and sturdy plants. “The linchpin is how are you feeding your plant,” Berg explained. “How are you creating a healthy plant.” 

But if growers do get broad mites, other pests or diseases, many feel they need to resort to using substances like Avid. Chris believes that pesticide use might be wider than believed. Everybody says they don’t use pesticides, she pointed out. “They say they grow pure organic. People don’t want to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I use Avid.’” 

According to one study of pesticides and cannabis, up to 70% of buds can be contaminated. According to the abstract of the study, “Determination of Pesticide Residues in Cannabis Smoke,” published in the Journal of Toxicology

Recoveries of residues were as high as 69.5% depending on the device used and the component investigated, suggesting that the potential of pesticide and chemical residue exposures to cannabis users is substantial and may pose a significant toxicological threat in the absence of adequate regulatory frameworks.  

One of the problems, Jodrey said, was that the state government tells medical marijuana growers, “You must be pure but we will not help you with the purity.”  Medical growers are expected to provide a clean product to the dispensary, but unlike other forms of agriculture there is no government regulation or information available to help the cannabis farmer achieve the desired end product.

But both Berg and Jodrey say testing and appropriate responses to the threat can help the grower achieve a healthy plant and a healthy end product for the consumer. Last year, Berg said, “I had a client that lost part of his crop to broad mites… . We got him a management plan… . He is changing a lot of his farming practices. He is doing more holistic farming. He is having the best year ever now.”

LoCO on the Pot: Harvest Season!

Emily Hobelmann / Sunday, Oct. 12 @ 8:40 a.m. / On the Pot

It’s mid-October. Fall is palpable. Pumpkins are poppin’ off at the farmers’ markets, there’s a chill to the air and rain is in the forecast for the next few days. Plus, it’s pretty much time to harvest full-sun outdoor marijuana crops. What a lovely time of year!

In reality though, if you factor in the indoor and light deprivation crops, harvest season in the Emerald Triangle is happening 24/7/365. People definitely produce weed year-round in these parts. But right now, when the full-sun outdoor grows are being harvested, is the most special weed harvest time. It’s the Emerald Triangle marijuana harvest climax.

And an interesting aspect of the fall marijuana harvest climax is Trim Tourism, a unique phenomenon where people from all over the world travel to the Emerald Triangle to try to score jobs trimming weed.

Last week in Garberville, the streets were swarming with traffic, even more so than usual. Lots of people were stationed along the main thoroughfare with cardboard signs that said things like “Work” or “I [heart] Work,” complete with sketches of cannabis leaves and little scissors.

Flocks of young folks sporting earth-tone clothing and backpacking gear were milling about on the Town Square. Foreign dialects floated in the air. Trim-work solicitations were speckled on the Town Square bulletin boards and on the bulletin board near the Garberville Theater. Some were colorful; some had little tear-off phone number strips; some provided information about country of origin — Belgium, France, Canada; some featured earth-friendly vibes.

On Wednesday, I chatted with a few work-wanting trim tourists. They came from Spain, from Italy, from Orange County. They came because they love the weed and because Northern California is legendary. Somehow, everybody knows that this is the most off-the-hook pot producing region in the world, that this is the pot-head farmer/tourist mecca.

The handful of tourists that I talked to have been in the area for at least a few days, and they hadn’t found work yet. But there is trim work happening, that’s for sure. I’ve personally visited a couple different medicinal outdoor cannabis gardens in the past week, and I got to witness all the work that goes into harvesting cannabis. The trimming machine scene I visited was most interesting. More on that next week…

Anyway, I can’t say how successful the hordes of trim tourists will be with finding work this fall; there’s no accurate trimmer employment index to check. What I can say is that when it comes to finding trim work, word of mouth is king — it helps to have a personal connection with the cannabis farmer or to at least have someone that can vouch for you with the farmer. In that way, the illegality-of-cannabis thing can make finding trim work a little tricky, but not impossible.

In spite of any hurdles they might face with finding work, tourists without any personal connection to the Emerald Triangle whatsoever are here and the hand-drawn ads on the local bulletin boards and snazzy cardboard signs aren’t the only ways they are advertising their desire for weed jobs. The Community section of Craigslist is yet another forum people use to solicit cannabis work.

Here’s an excerpt from a Craigslist weed-work solicitation ad by a young traveling couple:

We want to help someone with a genuine desire to do good and heal through their herbs. We know the importance of the energy that you put into your product, and both have a genuine love for quality herb. We are trustworthy and hardworking. Will do whatever needs to be done to secure a successful harvest on time.

The ad is a few weeks old, but its content is indicative of this conundrum — the lack of personal connections to local cannabis farmers. So a lot of these tourists’ ads feature pledges of trustworthiness, good vibes and strong work ethics, presumably because they have no one to vouch for them.

Undoubtedly, there are tourists that are successful with scoring work. And for those that get lucky, they will discover that trimming is physically tedious; that there is etiquette and technique involved; that the vibes and working conditions vary greatly from farm-to-farm. Indeed, one could write at great length about the methods and culture of weed trimming in the Emerald Triangle. But let’s not get into that today. Too many harvesting chores to be done in the garden.

In parting, I will leave you with some photos of trim tourist phenomena that I snapped over the past week in SoHum, mostly in Garberville. Next week: My experience at a farm where a Twister T4 Trimmer machine was used to process a full-sun outdoor cannabis crop.

Happy Harvest!

[Now With Video] Structure Fire in Eureka Almost Spread to Second Home

Kym Kemp / Sunday, Oct. 12 @ 7:37 a.m. / Fire!

Video provided by Christian Arbec.

Humboldt Bay Fire press release:

At approximately 1945 hours on 10-11-14, Humboldt Bay Fire (HBF) was dispatched to a structure fire in the vicinity of M St. at Harris St. [in Eureka.]  HBF responded with a first alarm assignment of 15 personnel including three engines, one ladder truck, and two Chief officers.

The first arriving HBF unit reported an attached garage to a residence fully involved in fire which was spreading to the living portion of the structure. Additionally, due to the large volume of fire, the paint and rain gutters on the residence directly to the South of the main fire building began to blister and melt.

Fortunately due to the location of the fire and its proximity to fire stations, several HBF fire apparatus were able to arrive simultaneously which allowed fire personnel to rapidly contain the fire. Crews were able to quickly mount an aggressive interior attack on the fire while at the same time search the residence for potentially trapped occupants. Crews were also able to concentrate on keeping the fire confined to the structure of origin and thereby save the threatened structure to the south. Had the response from HBF contained fewer units, this fire could have easily grown from one to two structures. This fire also proved challenging due to the large amount of material and belongings inside the structure of origin, making suppression efforts and a thorough search of the residence difficult. The fire was knocked down and controlled within approximately 30 minutes of arrival.

Crews worked an additional four hours overhauling the large amount of contents inside the structure and determining the fire was completely out.

Preliminary damage estimates show approximately $65,000 in damage to the structure. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Teen’s Eagle Scout Project Vandalized Last Night

Kym Kemp / Saturday, Oct. 11 @ 8:55 p.m. / Crime

The aftermath of vandalism at the Meditation Garden near Murray Road and the Hammond Trail. [Photo provided by a reader.]

Last night, the Meditation Garden located on property belonging to the New Heart Community Church near the Hammond Trail in McKinleyville was vandalized. “It was my Eagle project,” explained Trent McGowan a sophomore at UC Davis. The benches and planter and plants were the culmination of McGowan’s Boy Scout leadership program and took him over a year to put together with the help of local businesses, classmates, his boy scout troop and others. 

“We did it in August of 2012,” he said. “I had a lot of help… . It was definitely a pretty huge process. It took a lot more work than I thought it would.”

Originally, the garden only had two benches but fairly recently, McGowan and his father put in two more. “There were daffodils and a tree… . Everything was donated by business. It turned out pretty well.”

Trent McGowan soon after the Meditation Garden was installed. [Photo provided by McGowan.]

McGowan described the vandalism as a “disappointment.” But, he said, the garden can be repaired. “It isn’t destroyed. We can fix it and put it back.” 

However, he explained, “It made me lose faith a little bit. It is meant for people to enjoy…  .”

“I’m actually at school at UC Davis,” McGowan said, “I’m 6 hours away. Logistically, I can’t get home to fix this.” But McGowan has no doubts the vandalism “will be fixed in the near future… . Recently someone in the church adopted the project. Most likely my father and they will fix it.”

When the garden is restored, he hopes the community will once again come down to the garden and “appreciate the beauty and think about life and think deep thoughts… .”

“This project has meant and still means a lot to me,” he said.

18-Year-Old Dies in Tragic Accident Last Night

Kym Kemp / Saturday, Oct. 11 @ 5:49 p.m. / News

California Highway Patrol press release,

On October 10, 2014, at approximately 11:00 p.m., Joel Sanchez Sosa, age 18, of Kelseyville was driving a 2007 Hummer H3 southbound on US 101, south of Stafford Road Undercrossing at an unknown speed.  For reasons still under investigation, Mr. Sosa failed to maintain control of his vehicle and he allowed his vehicle to turn off the roadway and towards a steep embankment. 

The vehicle first collided with a mile post marker and then two trees.  Mr. Sosa, who was properly restrained and sustained fatal injuries as a result of this collision.   The passengers were both restrained and one sustained major injuries and the other sustained minor injuries.  Both passengers were transported by ambulance to Redwood Memorial Hospital.  DUI is not a factor and the US 101 was not closed.

The California Highway Patrol - Humboldt Area responded to the scene and is conducting the investigation.  Personnel from the Redcrest Volunteer Fire Department, Scotia Volunteer Fire Department, Cal Fire, Humboldt County Coroner, and City Ambulance also responded to the scene.