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25 Charged In 11,000-pound Grow House Operation In 14 Counties

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Nine law enforcement officers were probably a little embarrassed Sunday, but their weekend ordeal is a good lesson for the future, Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox said Monday.

Rescue crews extracted the group after the officers became stranded in the Dog Creek area of Skamania County on Saturday night following an operation to destroy 3,100 marijuana plants.

"I think there is a lot more pre-planning that could go into play" for future eradication efforts, Cox said Monday.

Law enforcement officers regularly venture into uncharted territory to destroy dope fields, but Saturday's mission was more difficult than expected, he said.

"Things kind of went sideways from the get-go," he said.

The trip marked the first time that a group of officers had to be taken out of the area by rescue crews, he said.

Treacherous terrain contributed to the difficulties, and modern technology didn't help. Officers had the exact coordinates of the plants but had a hard time reaching them, Cox said.

"GPS is nice, but it doesn't take terrain into account," he said.

The global positioning devices were telling officers where to go, but canyon walls and waterfalls were in the way. The group had to go around them, he added.

"You can't sprout wings and fly," he said.

The officers expected to find the crop in a couple hours, but it took them six hours. That just prolonged the mission, Cox said.

When it came time to head back, the officers wanted to find a shorter way out because they were exhausted, he said.

They tried to come out through the Dog Creek drainage and failed.

"It was just real bad terrain," Cox said. There aren't any trails in the area, "just vertical walls," he added.

The group had to try and get down sheer bluffs and around waterfalls, he said.

Darkness was approaching, so the officers called for help about 6 p.m. Saturday. A Skamania County deputy went into the area Saturday night to help the group and ended up staying with them, Cox said. That made 10 officers: four members of the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force and six Skamania County deputies.

Two helicopters attempted to get the group out, but high winds prevented that, so they had to be rescued with ropes, harnesses and helmets. The last man, exhausted and dehydrated, was brought down a sheer cliff in a litter near Drano Lake just after 3 p.m. Sunday.

The officers succeeded in destroying the illegal growing operation, but no one was found at the site and arrests weren't made, Cox said.

The undersheriff believes that the grow is tied to a similar 8,000-plant crop that was destroyed east of the Dog Creek area about two weeks ago.

Cox said that the cost of the rescue operation was not yet known. Names of the officers were not released.


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Source: Columbian
Contact: Columbian.com -Serving Clark County, Washington
Copyright: 2007 Columbian.com
Website: Officers' rescue provides lessons- Columbian.com
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