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Pot farmer charged with starting California wildfire

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 37-year-old man accused of starting a raging wildfire in Northern California while tending to his marijuana farm was arrested and in custody, fire officials said on Sunday.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officers arrested Sacramento resident Freddie Alexander Smoke III on Friday on felony charges of recklessly starting a fire and illegal marijuana cultivation, CAL FIRE spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Exhaust from a truck Smoke drove around the cultivation site in the remote community of Igo is expected to have ignited a patch of dry grass on Friday afternoon, Berlant said.

The flames grew into the so-called "Bully Fire," which is burning 3,700 acres in Igo and has forced the evacuation of multiple homes.

The fire, which has caused at least $1 million in damage and firefighting costs, is only 10 percent contained, Berlant said.

"There's still a lot of potential that this fire could grow," Berlant said.

Some 180 marijuana plants were seized from the pot farm after the fire started, Berlant said. He did not know if the fire had burned down the grow operation.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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