Editor’s note: this story has been updated to include a letter from a former contractor of Flow Cannabis Co. Read the letter below.
MENDOCINO Co., 7/9/21 — Flow Cannabis, a cannabis company often known locally as Flow Kana, released a statement this morning taking responsibility for igniting the Broiler Fire.
In the statement issued this morning, Flow Cannabis Co. president Jerom Fawsom acknowledged that “the information we have to date indicates that the July 7, 2021, Redwood Valley fire originated on our property, after the blades of a mower, operated by our employee, struck rock, causing a spark.”
Later in the evening a former contractor for the company, local farmer Ruthie King, sent an email to company officials and local media, condemning the land management practices of the of the company and saying, “I see now that FlowKana [sic] attempted to replace grazing with the mechanical option, using the fast and cheap method for fuels reduction. I also see that FlowKana couldn’t even treat the tractor with the respect it deserves, using it recklessly and causing loss of property and extreme stress in a community traumatized by fire.”
The subject line of the email, “sheep don’t spark flames.”
The Broiler Fire, which began just after 2:30 p.m. on July 7, destroyed three residences and another six outbuildings, and displaced at least two families — more information and their GoFundMes pages can be found in our previous coverage.
An earlier statement issued on Thursday from the company’s vice president of real estate noted that the company was cooperating with an ongoing investigation, but did not provide further details. The company has not yet responded to a request for from The Mendocino Voice concerning Thursday’s statement.
In Friday’s statement Fawsom says, “We are actively reaching out to the impacted families as well as local community organizations to assist with recovery efforts and community healing, including The Humane Society of Inland Mendocino, the Fire Safe Council of Mendocino County, and Redwood Valley Emergency Fund.”
Cal Fire officials have regularly discouraged residents from mowing or operating landscaping equipment in dry vegetation during the hot hours of the day, since this can cause sparks that are particularly dangerous with low humidity and dry vegetation levels. The Ranch Fire, which grew to be part of the largest fire in the state in 2019, was started due to sparks from a rancher driving a steel stake.
News of the statement has led to a wide-ranging community discussion about vegetation management and the company’s history in Mendocino County. In response to the statement, Ruthie King, who manages livestock for thee New Agrarian Collective and was contracted to graze some of Flow Cannabis Co.’s property in 2019, expressed concern that not only had she been treated poorly by the company while bringing livestock to graze their lands, but disappointment that the company had subsequently cancelled her contract in 2020, switching to mechanical methods of vegetation control such as the mower involved in the Broiler Fire. “Last year, when you chose not to renew my contract with less than 6 weeks notice, I wrote a few messages (see below) about what I felt was your responsibility as a company and landowner in our county. I asked about a fire safety plan for Flow Ranch, hoping to see an alternative to grazing that would ensure safety for my community,” King’s letter to the company’s management states (see below).
Here’s the full statement from Flow Cannabis Co.:
Broiler Creek Fire Statement – 7/9/21
Over the course of the past 48 hours, we have been in conversation with local authorities supporting the fire investigation. The information we have to date indicates that the July 7, 2021, Redwood Valley fire originated on our property, after the blades of a mower, operated by our employee, struck rock, causing a spark.
Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the stress, anxiety, fear, and loss that our Redwood Valley neighbors have endured as a result. Nor can words express how truly grateful we are to the first responders who were immediately on the scene and who, through their heroic and coordinated efforts, prevented further devastation.
We are actively reaching out to the impacted families as well as local community organizations to assist with recovery efforts and community healing, including The Humane Society of Inland Mendocino, the Fire Safe Council of Mendocino County, and Redwood Valley Emergency Fund.
We are dedicated to keeping our employees, neighbors and local community safe. We are mindful and vigilant of the wildfire danger that exists in our community and committed to working closely with fire officials to improve our current fire prevention program and ensure that, moving forward, we are at the forefront of wildfire prevention.
Jarom Fawson, President of Flow Cannabis Co.
Here’s the letter sent by Ruthie King to Flow Cannabis management:
To the entire team at FlowKana and Flow Ranch:
It is with disappointment and dismay that I send this message.
On July 7 when my fire pager toned out for the Broiler Fire, I thought about the grasslands I spent a whole season grazing at the Flow Ranch, and I hoped that your promises about fire safety had been kept. Last year, when you chose not to renew my contract with less than 6 weeks notice, I wrote a few messages (see below) about what I felt was your responsibility as a company and landowner in our county. I asked about a fire safety plan for Flow Ranch, hoping to see an alternative to grazing that would ensure safety for my community. I shared my feelings about being treated like a tractor, a machine that could be parked and not thought of until it is time to be used.
You attempted to deal with the fuels problem rather than treat the land as a complex series of relationships that foster life and death. You reduced your relationship to the land to one of control. I wish it didn’t have to happen this way, but my hope is that this fire is a wake up call for all of you, to assess your impact and dig deep for root causes of the harm you have caused. This fire reflects larger truths about your organization, with yet another chapter of bridges burned in this community.
When you first moved in, I was optimistic that some big players were finally on our side. Donations started to flow to non profits, locals benefitted from new jobs, and farmers saw a chance for their small regenerative farms to thrive. I trusted you with my own flock and contract grazing business, thinking we were forming a long term relationship. But you have withdrawn further and further from your original promises and mission, cutting core parts of your sustainability and community resiliency programs, losing an incredible farming community, leaving what behind?
I hope that as an organization you will renew your commitment to cultivating a strong community, to acting with integrity and practicing the values you say you hold rather than serving as an extractive force in our community. At the very least, I hope you learn to manage the land safely and with respect.
Wishing you a successful damage control,