US (CA): Cannabis growers are building tricked-out firefighting rigs to save their crops

When wildfire threatens the heart of California’s cannabis-growing 'Emerald Triangle', local grower Robert Steffano fires up 'The Wookie'. 

That’s not some new strain of cannabis. The Wookie is a 1990 BMY-Harsco Military M923A2 cargo truck that weighs more than 21,000 pounds. Steffano bought this beast in 2015 for $3,500 directly from the U.S. government in an auction, and then he got to work turning it into a fire engine.

“I’ve built a number of pickup truck–based fire rigs, and they’re very effective and easy to own and operate, but the most water they can carry is about 200 gallons,” Steffano, owner of Villa Paradiso, a cannabis farm and homestead in Humboldt County, said. “I wanted more; I wanted to build a rig that could handle fighting fire for a while if I had to. I wanted 1,000 gallons of water.”

The 59-year-old, self-described “hippie motorhead” equipped the rig with a tank of this size, plus an industrial-grade fire pump he bought on eBay and a hose-wheel he found in Missouri on Craigslist. The truck originally topped out at about 55 mph, but it can now hit 70 thanks to a turbocharged engine and Steffano’s tuning. And he recently added massive off-road tires that can roll over almost any terrain and be deflated at the touch of a button for better traction in tough road situations.


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