Fire season fast on the approach; officials say be ready

By: Eric Laughlin, The Press Tribune
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It’s not something we tend to think about much in February, but it’s just a matter of months before those hot, windy days of fire season start rearing their ugly heads. Fire officials like Bob Richardson are stressing that this is the time to remove dead limbs and brush that will soon turn into the perfect fuel for wildfires. Richardson, who serves as fire marshal for the South Placer Fire District, spent last Friday overseeing a fuel reduction project surrounding a subdivision in Granite Bay. There, crews from Bella Wildfire Services and Brushbusters, Incorporated, cleared and burned dead vegetation in a 28-acre common area of a private neighborhood. “What it is is a reduction of fuel,” Richardson said. “It’s not going to stop a fire from burning through here but it’s going to make it more manageable. The BTU’s (British thermal units) will drop and that will make the homes more defensible.” Bella Wildfire Services owner and forester Ryan Bellanca used a burn pile to show how flames can soar into the sky when enough fuel is available. “That got me jumping,” he said afterward. “Can you imagine a fire of a lot larger magnitude coming through this area? “This is a really good way to reduce fuel, while at the same time promoting healthy forests.” Bellanca, who actually secured a $55,000 federal grant to conduct the clearing operation in the Twin Rocks Road community, said that fire fuel reduction in the Gold Country often gets overlooked. “No one really addresses this kind of project here in the oak Foothills,” he said. “But as you saw with the 49 Fire, this region should not be overlooked.” The devastating 49 Fire burned 63 homes and three commercial structures in a heavily populated area of Auburn last August. Resident Bill Furnas has been most active among his neighbors when it comes to managing the common area. He said he’s worked to ensure the effort balances fire danger and wildlife habitat. “We had a fire come through here about 12 years ago so we realize how important this is,” he said. “It’s going to be a couple hundred percent better than before they did the work.” Bellanca and Richardson both said that cool, moist days are the best for clearing fuel. With spring just around the corner, those days are surely numbered. Check with your local fire department to make sure burning is permitted in your area. Some larger burns also require special permits.