Friday May 04 2012
Our View: As fire danger heats up, so does personal responsibility for our properties
Don?t let the cool weather from Thursday fool you, we?re heading into the fire season, and you need to be prepared. As we stand at the front porch to the Sierra Nevada, there are many aspects to enjoy when living in this foothill community. We?re afforded the beautiful American River Canyon as our backyard. We?re just an hour or so away from mountain skiing, and we live at a quieter pace in a region with more beauty. But this all comes with a cost ? fire danger. We?re now into that time of year where a windy day and dry foliage can equal a grass or wild land fire ? and unfortunately, possible loss of homes. Thanks to a dryer than usual winter, we?re only at 55 percent of our desired water levels, according to Cal Fire, and this does not bode well for us living in rural areas. Already this year there have been 679 fires from January to the second week of April ? that?s a huge number compared to the fact that there were only 210 fires in the same time frame last year. While it?s only a couple hundred more than the five-year average for that time period (410 fires), it?s still a high number compared to last year. While many of these fires have been in Southern California, some of them have been popping up here already, and it?s only going to get hotter. ?We have already seen an increase in fire activity. Even in our area we have had a couple of small wildfires, 2 to 3 acres, which is very unusual for late winter-early spring,? Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Journal in a recent interview. ?Statewide I think we are three times above normal and about two times above average over the past five years.? So what does this mean for us living here in the foothills? Defensible space. It?s a matter of state law that you clear 100 feet of space around the structures on your property ? it makes it a lot harder for the fire to reach your home when there?s no fuel to feed it. This means cutting down tall grass that will dry out; cleaning up leaves; pulling weeds; eliminating fallen branches from trees and keeping shrubs and bushes trimmed, or simply removing them. Personal responsibility for your property is more important than ever as local and state fire agencies are experiencing budget cuts that can mean less staff and equipment. So having that defensible space will mean even more as you might have to wait those extra few seconds due to possible longer response times. ?We are doing a good job of jumping on these fires early, but it?s not normal in wintertime to have this level of fire activity. The weather conditions are all pointing to a potentially busy season for us and it?s why we are preparing for the season,? Berlant said. ?It even emphasizes even more why homeowners need to be prepared as well.? We?ve seen the damage up close of fires when the 49 Fire ravaged North Auburn, destroying more than 60 homes in the blaze. We?re aware of the dangers that await as the mercury rises this summer, and it?s why we must all take responsibility to keep our communities safe.