Pharmers cause fire – illegal wiring in unpermitted building Mark West Watershed

Pharmers cause fire – illegal wiring in unpermitted building Mark West Watershed

Mark West Watershed neighborhood had a major incident today. Just a few hours ago one of the County’s PRP grows again put the safety of the public at risk. Illegal wiring in an unpermitted drying shed burned the building to the ground in a heavily forested area accessible only by a narrow, steep, dirt dead end road. Because it is April and not October, Cal Fire and County fire resources were able to send 5 engines, 4 support trucks and 2 tankers to the fire which was put out before it could spread into the forest canopy. Had this fire occurred in the summer or fall, had we not had an extremely wet winter, Laura Waldbaum’s house and those of her neighbors in the watershed would have likely burned to the ground as well. This is the second electrical incident at this location. Last year a transformer blew up and required an emergency response by PG&E. This same operator is responsible for drying up neighbors wells last summer leaving the homeowners to truck in water for simple daily hygiene needs.

All eight operators in the Mark West Watershed are being allowed to continue to operate despite receiving letters from Permit Sonoma removing them from PRP.  Traci Tesconi and PRMD have decided to hold their appeal hearings (on the removal from the PRP) of this operator and all seven others at the same time as their Conditional Use Permit hearings are held. Basically this “solution” allows these growers to operate indefinitely despite being formally removed from the program. 

If the permitting department had taken this issue seriously and acted on the MWW neighbors concerns perhaps the project which burned today would have actually be shut down and the electrical wiring abated. This reckless behavior by the County MUST STOP. The health and safety of residents in the watershed and the environment here are the County’s responsibility; it’s about time to start taking this responsibility seriously. Please, no more delays! Summer is coming, planting season is here and something must be done immediately to prioritize protecting people and the environment over facilitating commercial activities in this watershed before the next fire season.

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