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Region’s fire officials urge residents to ring their homes with healthy stretch of defensible space

Cleanup to continue shaded fuel break in canyon
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Monday was the official start of fire season, and fire crews say they are prepared, but are asking for citizen help as well. “What they should be doing is clearing away that flammable vegetation, that dry grass especially,” said Mark D’Ambrogi, fire chief for the city of Auburn. “The requirement for defensible space is 100 feet or to the property line. That applies to everybody. Who knows what the fire season is going to bring, but the No. 1 thing people can do is just help us by cleaning up their lots and yards.” Daniel Berlant, spokesman for Cal Fire, said creating the 100 feet of defensible space is the most important thing local residents can do. “While you’re doing that defensible space make sure any trees limbs are limbed up 6 feet from the ground,” Berlant said. “If you have any pine needles, oak leaves, any leaves in your gutters, remove those as well. Because all that does is create fuel for wildfire.” Berlant said one of the challenges for this year’s fire season is that there has been an above average amount of rainfall, and brush and grasses are overgrown. Taking care of the growth is important to do now, Berlant said. “It’s really key that right now is a good time to do it because conditions are still somewhat cooler and somewhat still green,” he said. “Now is really the time to do it before it dries out and we start summer, which is just a couple of weeks away. The grass is already drying out. We have had a number of relatively small fires.” Berlant said fire season was officially declared Monday and Cal Fire is beefing up its staffing and opening up all their stations in Northern California, but the agency needs residents’ help. “Dealing with wildfires is really a partnership,” Berlant said. “Homeowners need to do their part as well, whether it be defensible space or participating in the fuel break projects like they do in Auburn. We all need to do our part to deal with wildfires.” One upcoming project Auburnites can participate in is the Project Canyon Safe cleanup on Saturday, July 9 at the Overlook off Pacific Street. The Project Canyon Safe effort began last year at Robie Point. “What happened last year … with this unique public/private partnership with the California Conservation Corps, and Auburn Fire Department and volunteers’ private actions, I think we got about half of the 150 acres done,” said Councilman Kevin Hanley, chairman of the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council. “So, we need to continue that effort on the other half, and then we also have to put together a good maintenance project because things grow back. Ten years ago we had a really excellent shaded fuel break, and then it was allowed to all grow back.” Hanley said sign-ins are planned to begin at 7:30 a.m. July 9 and the cleanup is scheduled to end at noon. Recology Auburn Placer plans to volunteer with the project and host a barbecue afterward. Residents who want to volunteer can contact Hanley by calling (530) 906-1042 or e-mail hanleykh@jps.net. Berlant said the American River Canyon is a hotspot for wildfires, and these types of projects are important because creating a shaded fuel break allows firefighters enough time to get a blaze under control before it can reach the top of the canyon and impact homes. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com