USA — When Oregon smokejumpers, firefighters who parachute into remote wilderness areas to extinguish forest fires, landed in U.S. Forest Service property in southern Oregon, they weren’t looking for pot. But that’s what they got – lots and lots of it.
KPTV, a local Oregon Fox affiliate, reports that over 1,500 plants were recovered from a marijuana field site in the Applegate area in Jackson County. They also found two long guns and hundreds more holes and water lines, apparently for more pot plants.
Authorities said the plants belonged to a Mexican national drug trafficking organization.
Last weekend, gusty winds in Central Oregon toppled trees and downed power lines which ignited at least two small wildfires in the area. AP reports that dozens of homes had to be evacuated.
According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, there have been 13 lightning-induced fires in Oregon this year, burning a total of five acres. There has also been a total of 293 acres of land charred by 81 human-caused fires.
Oregon authorities have been battling Mexican drug gangs for years, with marijuana plant discovery skyrocketing in 2007 and 2009. From a 2009 Oregon Live report:
Mexico’s drug gangs continue to bedevil authorities in Oregon. Investigators complain that they frequently pick off bottom rungs of the drug enterprises, mostly growers and those who supply them food and fertilizer, but have had no luck reaching the kingpins who finance the operations.
According to Oregon Live, drug investigators are aware that they can’t possibly prevent Mexican gangs from establishing pot plantations in their state. They’re banking instead on intimidation efforts, hoping that helicopter flyovers, eradications and mounting federal indictments of growers discourage the drug growers from returning every spring.
Marijuana field discoveries are also not limited to the Pacific Northwest.
Back in 2012, police in Chicago discovered a massive pot field the size of two football fields in Illinois. CBS reports that authorities found more than 1,500 cannabis plants, some as tall as Christmas trees and with a value of up to $10 million, near the Harborside International Golf Center while on a helicopter operation in the area. The field was just a few hundred feet away from the street and was hidden by a veil of wild flowers.