Brush fire turns up marijuana patch

Posted: Monday, May 15, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A campfire near Thane created a small brush fire which led to the discovery of a patch of marijuana being tended in the Tongass National Forest.

Juneau fire officials received a report of smoke at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Because it was located in the Tongass, firefighters contacted the U.S. Forest Service.

A five-person crew drove out to the site and made a steep climb to the 1,500-foot level of the slope where the fire was burning on Sheep Mountain. When the crew arrived, the smoky blaze encompassed about two or three acres, burning in dry grass and brush about 100 feet below the snow line, McLean said.

The fire was quickly extinguished.

On their climb to the fire, the crew inadvertently crossed private property where they encountered 22 marijuana plants. That matter was turned over to the Alaska State Troopers' Southeast Alaska Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Trooper Sgt. Ray Culbreth is searching for the marijuana gardeners by canvassing Thane residents and looking for leads.

''I left my business card (at the growing site) and I'm hoping they will call me,'' joked Culbreth.

Culbreth said the plants will be sent to the state crime lab in Anchorage. By analyzing the plants the lab can pin down the variety and perhaps link it to known growers or suppliers of that variety.

The plants had been started indoors, Culbreth said, and transplanted to the outdoor site about a week before. They ranged from 8 to 14 inches.

It's hard to spot marijuana in the underbrush, he said.

''They blend so well with the environment that unless you are in close proximity it's hard to pick them out'' of other plant growth, he said.

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