In a story published in the San Jose Mercury News on August 30th, a fire official in Twain Hart, near the Rim fire's affected areas states he believes the now 4th largest fire in California history was caused by humans.
Todd Mc Neal, a former captain with the Sonora Fire Dept. went further in a statement at a community meeting to say “it was highly suspect there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-growing type thing.” According to Mc Neal, there were no lightning-generating storms in the area at the time the fire began.
The Rim fire began August 17th in an isolated area of the Stanislaus National Forest at a place known as Jawbone Ridge.
According to authorities and the U.S. Forest Service, there have been substantial increases in marijuana growing operations in National Forests throughout the western U.S. and California over the past few decades. Mexican drug cartels are suspected.
It is theorized that tightening of security at U.S. - Mexican borders have made it easier for marijuana now to be grown in the U.S. instead of it being smuggled in. A number of suspicious incidents including another fire near Santa Barbara in 2009 have led some investigators to tie the drug cartels into these occurrences.
According to Cal Fire, the Rim fire had grown to 348 square miles, or 233,000 acres and was 40% contained on Sunday, Sept. 1. Satellite data has indicated smoke and ash particles have drifted across the U.S., and have been detected as far away as parts of Europe.
Some specialists believe that the Rim fire may continue to smolder well into this fall.