SANTA BARBARA, California – Investigators believe marijuana growers with possible ties to Mexican drug cartels accidentally caused a wildfire in northern Santa Barbara County.
U.S. Forest Service officials announced their findings Tuesday, and warned that more pot farms remain hidden in remote areas across the country.
About 30,000 marijuana plants and an AK-47 rifle were found near the fire’s origin in Los Padres National Forest, where more than 88,000 acres (35,600 hectares), or more than 137 square miles (87,600 acres), have burned this month.
Forest Service Special Agent Russ Arthur says the plants’ quality is similar to those linked to Mexican drug cartels but he is still investigating.
Arthur says an unspecified cooking device sparked the blaze and investigators are searching for up to six people who were there.