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3 Men Arrested For Refusing To Evacuate Ranch Fire, Water Marijuana Plants Instead

LAKE COUNTY (CBS13) — Firefighters said three men in Nice refused to evacuate for the Ranch Fire because they were tending to their marijuana plants.

Lake County Sheriff Corey Paulich said in a press release Saturday that deputies were dispatched to the Bartlett Springs Road area when three men were being hostile toward fire engine crews. Firefighters said the men were in a Toyota pickup and refused to leave the area.

Travis Bell
Travis Bell, 29 (source: Lake County Sheriff)

Deputies identified the men as Gary Thomas Wertheimer, 41, Steven Marshall Bell, 59, and Travis Steven Bell, 29. The three were reportedly watering their marijuana plants when they were contacted.

Steven Bell
Steven Bell, 59 (source: Lake County Sheriff)

According to deputies, firefighters told deputies they were attempting to fight the front line of the Ranch Fire, which was approximately 20 yards from them.  The three males refused to leave, causing the fire crew to divert three VLAT (Very Large Air Tanker) passes.  The VLAT was being used in an attempt to control the fire so it would not continue to travel to the town of Lucerne.

Ganya Wertheimer
Gary Wertheimer (source: Lake County Sheriff)

Sheriffs said all three men were arrested for Interfering with firefighters during a fire operation and being an unauthorized person in an evacuation area. They were then released with a citation.

The Ranch Fire is 156,678 acres and 27 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. It's part of the Mendocino Complex Fires which also contained the 44, 793-acre River Fire. The fires are burning 201,471 acres and are 34 percent contained.

New evacuations are in order for the fires and have been issued for southwest Glenn County. A full list of evacuations and road closures can be found below.

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