Updated: Friday, 02 Sep 2011, 12:38 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 02 Sep 2011, 7:07 AM EDT
BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT, N.M. (KRQE) - The largest wildfire in New Mexico history has now led to the discovery of one of the biggest marijuana plantation the state has ever seen.
The operation on National Park Service land is so big the New Mexico National Guard was called in Thursday to help deal with it.
Late in the day crews deep in the Jemez Mountains north of Albuquerque were still digging up the estimated 5,000 pot plants.
A team from the park service spotted the growing operation while checking for flood damage in the burn area of the Las Conchas Fire, a 156,000-acre blaze started by a downed power line that spread dangerously close to Los Alamos in late in June and early July.
The plantation was right next to the burn scar, and officials said in may not be just luck the pot farm survived.
"It's a possibility that they were right there protecting this garden from that fire," Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Jason Lott said. "We don't know that yet, but it is right on the edge of the burn scar."
The farm was under surveillance for about a week after the aerial crew surveying flood damage spotted the plants.
Authorities believe the farmers were living there and found four tent-like structures, an irrigation system and a lot of trash.
Law enforcement spotted two men in the area last week. One was armed with a rifle, and agents are now looking for them.
Early Thursday morning a team of bomb experts went in to check for booby traps involving weapons or explosives, the types of deterrents found on other illegal farms.
The law enforcement and the National Guard moved in hauling away massive bundles of marijuana by helicopter and in dump trucks.
The investigation involved federal, state and local agencies.
The National Park Service says this is the first illegal pot grow they've found in its eight-state Mountain Region.
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