Southern Oregon wildfires this week have plowed through small towns, leveled hundreds of homes and businesses and now threatens part of the state’s prized – and lucrative – outdoor cannabis crop.

Statewide, an estimated 20 percent of state-licensed marijuana businesses – roughly 408 – face some level of evacuation, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission said Wednesday. That includes stores, marijuana processors and producers.

Of those, the agency said 73 marijuana producers, most of them outdoor farms, have been ordered to evacuate.

Many of those operations are in southern Oregon, a region synonymous with outdoor cannabis cultivation. In addition, state officials said a “significant” number of marijuana businesses in Clackamas County are also under threat from fast-moving wildfires.

Southern Oregon wildfires

Wildfires on Wednesday encroached on the small rural community of Takilma in the Illinois Valley.

Early Wednesday, wildfires encroached on Josephine County’s Takilma, prompting an evacuation order of the counter-culture enclave long associated with cannabis. The small remote community in the Illinois Valley is a “breadbasket” of cannabis production, said Nathan Howard, who with his brother, Aaron, operates East Fork Cultivars.

Josephine and Jackson counties are home to 62 percent of Oregon’s outdoor marijuana producers, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Howard said his brother was awakened by a neighbor early Wednesday who urged him to evacuate.

“It’s tough,” Nathan Howard said. “I am focusing on us, but I am also wanting to be mindful of people who have lost everything.”

Howard said his brother evacuated with his family.

“If the fires do engulf a large amount of the valley, if not all of it, based on what we have seen, it is going to be taking out a lot of multi-generational cannabis famers and infrastructure,” Howard said.

Rhea Miller, who operates Millerville Farm, a licensed hemp and cannabis farm in Takilma, said she and her husband Matthew stayed behind Wednesday to protect their land. She said they’re both independent wildland fighters.

“We have equipment out, we have water trucks, we are plowing fire lines and protecting our land,” she said.

The fires have transformed the typically lush region into “a war zone,” she said.

“It’s just been snowing ash, just like snow,” she said.

She can see fire burning in the distance. She said she and her husband are assessing moment to moment whether it’s safe to remain.

Miller said she’s worried about losing her hemp and recreational cannabis crops.

“I try to stay optimistic in all situations but it definitely feels a little unknown at the moment.”


— Noelle Crombie;; 503-276-7184; @noellecrombie