By the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council
Yes, the drought is over. But no, the fire danger isn’t.
That’s the message from CAL FIRE and the Deer Springs Fire Protection District, who fear that the same rains that ended the drought have stimulated a heavy grass crop that can spread fire.
That tall grass may look nice when it’s green and moist, said CAL FIRE Capt. Terry Heidmann, but when it dries out it’s just like matchsticks waiting for flint.
“We have a large amount of grass and weeds, so if someone throws a cigarette butt on the side of the road, that’s what will go up in flames,” said Heidmann, who is assigned to Station No. 3 in Hidden Meadows.
Heidmann advises homeowners to clear their property of light grass and weeds, but to be careful when doing so.
“You want to control it before it gets too dry,” he warned. “Cut it early in the morning, when it’s damp. Machines, weed eaters and tractors can all cause sparks, so have a shovel and fire extinguisher or hose nearby. When you’re mowing that golden-brown grass, that can catch.”
CAL FIRE has already responded this year to more than 400 wildfires that have burned more than 7,000 acres, according to a CAL FIRE press release, and tall grass supplies the flashy fuel that spreads to sagebrush and other native plants.
“Fire seasons are getting longer and hotter, and there has been a significant increase in the occurrence of large and damaging wildfires,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director and the state’s forester. “We need all Californians to prepare for wildfires, and this year we have a new tool to help.”
That tool is the “Ready for Wildfire” app, http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Ready-for-Wildfire-App/, which is available for iPhones and Android devices on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, respectively.
The app includes checklists to help homeowners maintain defensible space, harden homes with ignition-resistant building materials, create a family evacuation plan and emergency supply kit, and a plan for evacuation. The app also provides guidance on maintaining healthy trees and shrubs, and features customizable alerts that will send a text or push notification to your electronic device when CAL FIRE responds to a wildfire of 10 acres or more in the vicinity.
For more information on how you can prepare for wildfire, go to http://www.readyforwildfire.org/.
A version of this article appears in Fire Safety News, a monthly e-newsletter published by the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council. To subscribe go to www.DeerSpringsFireSafeCouncil.com and click on the “SUBSCRIBE” link.