The discovery of 3,800 marijuana plants 10 miles north of Ojai Friday morning is being called the second largest pot seizure in Ventura County history.
Ventura County sheriff's deputies, along with officers from the National Forest Service, raided a hidden marijuana farm along Derrydale Creek in the Los Padres National Forest, said Sheriff's Sgt. Arnie Aviles. The plants had been in the ground for almost two months and had grown to about 3 feet, he said.
Had they grown to maturity, the plants would have had a street value of $15 million, Aviles said. That's about $9 million less than the value of a massive pot farm uncovered last fall southeast of Ojai, according to authorities.
One suspect wearing military camouflage clothing fled the scene Friday as law enforcement officials were being airlifted into the rugged canyon area about 9 a.m., Aviles said. The suspect was being sought Friday night.
Forest Service officials told the Sheriff's Department about the plants, which were on three-quarter-mile stretches along both sides of Derrydale Creek, according to Aviles. The creek crosses California 33 about five miles north of the Rose Valley Road turnoff and provided the growers with an abundance of water for the illegal crop, authorities said.
The marijuana was planted in bunches among native vegetation to make it more difficult to detect from the air, authorities said.
Authorities found a shelter nearby built from oak trees, twine and camouflage tarp. It was stocked with outdoor clothing, "lots of food, lots of sleeping bags and reading materials," Aviles said. "Two or three people could have been staying there for days."
"It looks like they had just made some chicken soup" before authorities arrived, Aviles said. "We also found some fresh eggs."
Authorities also found records in a spiral binder indicating the marijuana had been planted about June 2, Aviles said.
The unidentified male suspect who fled the scene was believed to be hiding in the wilderness until dark, Aviles said. "There were no vehicles anywhere near that location," he said.
The largest marijuana field discovered in the county, Aviles said, boasted more than 6,000 plants and was discovered last September in a canyon near Lake Casitas.
"We found that one later in the season and the plants had grown to 12 and 15 feet," Aviles said. Those plants had an estimated value of $24 million. No arrest was made in that case.