Narcotics agents said Tuesday they had little doubt that the nearly 90,000-acre La Brea fire in California was started by Mexican drug traffickers who were tending a large, sophisticated marijuana farm planted on the side of a mountain in the Los Padres National Forest.

The growers apparently fled as firefighters approached the source of the fire and are still at large, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. Their abandoned site was similar to other illicit plots planted by Mexican nationals and discovered by drug agents in recent years in state and federal forests.

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