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California's Massive Rim Fire May Have Been Sparked By An Illegal Marijuana Operation

"We know it's human caused. There was no lightning in the area," a fire chief said. The blaze near Yosemite National Park has torched more than 213,000 acres -- the state's fifth largest ever recorded.

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Todd McNeal, chief of Northern California's Twain Harte Fire Department said in a recent community meeting he didn't know the exact cause of the Rim Fire but it was "highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing."

McNeal has 23 years of experience at the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and other agencies in the Sierra Nevada.

McNeal's comments on the fire's possible cause can be seen at the 6-minute mark of this YouTube video.


A stunning time-lapse from Yosemite captured the fire’s rapid growth from August 22–27, 2013.

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Jon Passantino is a deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jon Passantino at

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