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Nearly $20 million in marijuana plants went up in smoke at the Willow Oak Fire Department Friday afternoon, following a raid by Yolo County narcotics officers in the Cache Creek area. Thus far during this growing season, said officials, the number of pot plants - and their dollar value - exceeds the total of the previous four years.
Roy Giorgi, commander for the Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team, said around 4,700 nearly mature plants were seized in the third operation of the season from Bureau of Land Management property, located about two miles northwest of Low Water Bridge off Highway 16 in the Cache Creek Canyon.
There were no arrests in this latest operation, which involved 16 agents as well as officers from the California Department of Justice, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, the National Guard, California Highway Patrol and Yolo County Sheriff's Office.
Following the seizure, the plants were taken to the Willow Oak Fire Department by pickup trucks and burned with the assistance of firefighters.
Giorgi said the plants were between 4- and 12-feet tall. Some had nearly mature buds of between 12- and 14 inches in length. All of the plants were sinsemilla, which is premium marijuana.
The current price for such marijuana plants is between $4,000 and $5,000 per dried pound.
A campsite and sophisticated watering system were also uncovered as was a stash of ammunition, although no weapons were retrieved.
Giorgi said aerial surveillance of areas throughout the county began in late July and that a number of promising grow sites were spotted. Harvesting of marijuana usually begins in mid-August and continues into October.
Last week, during a similar operation, 3,000 plants, valued at $10 million were seized in roughly the same area. That raid also resulted in one arrest, Victor Aguilar, 21, whom Giorgi said was an illegal alien.
Aguilar had apparently been hired to look after the garden by the growers. He and several other unidentified people were being paid $5,000 to take care of the garden over a three-month period.
Several weeks ago a much smaller garden was taken off Putah Creek near Davis. That was the first raid of this year.
Giorgi was pleased by the number of plants taken Friday and the operations so far this year.
"We've already taken between 10 and 20 times the number of plants during all of the past four years," he said while watching a roughly 5-foot-tall by 10-foot-wide pile of marijuana go up in smoke.
He also said other places of interest have been targeted by CAMP helicopters and that they would be investigated at some time in the future.