So Cal fire ignites need to protect Auburn homes

Defensible space easy way to guard against wildfire
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Just as weather conditions are making it difficult for firefighters fighting a blaze in Santa Barbara, the Auburn area has the potential for the same type of problem. In preparation for fire season, Auburn-area homeowners are being asked to clear defensible space around their homes and set up an evacuation plan. “This area has a long history of having fires that are wind-driven,” said Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, Tahoe National Forest fire chief. “They’re very similar to what we just had in Santa Barbara.” Pincha-Tulley said fires that start in the Sierra can quickly travel to the foothills and the valley. She said typically with fast-moving fires, firefighters are concerned with evacuating residents before saving homes. “If you have defensible space and we can help get people out of their homes, your home stands a better chance surviving a fire on its own whether we can get to it or not,” Pincha-Tulley said. Keith Drone, Foresthill Fire Protection District battalion chief, said he has seen first-hand examples of how defensible space has saved homes from fire damage. “Defensible space is important to keep the homeowners safe and make our job a little easier in protecting their home,” Drone said. However, homeowners need to keep in mind ideal times of day to clear vegetation. Officials recently revealed that the cause of the Santa Barbara fire may have been a spark from a power tool. Pincha-Tulley recommends that property owners clear space in the early morning hours and before 1 p.m., when the day starts to heat up. “Even with your best intentions to be smart fire-wise, when you’re out in the heat of the day and the humidity drops, it sets the stage for a small spark to become a large fire,” Pincha-Tulley said. She also said homeowners should plan to stay around their home for a few hours to watch for any sparks that may flicker. If problems arise, call the local fire department. Debra Hein, interagency fire-mitigation specialist for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, said, “there are a lot of myths” about what defensible space looks like. “When correctly done, your yard can look great and it doesn’t have to be completely demolished with no vegetation at all,” Hein said. Hein said it can be inexpensive to remove plants, ladder fuel and dead, brown branches. Cleaning out gutters and using fire-resistant plants are other tips. “I think some people think, ‘It doesn’t matter what I do, a wildfire is going to destroy my house no matter what,’” Hein said. “Just making a clean open space around your house does make a difference. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- Five tips to defend your home from wildfire · Remove dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and dried leaves 100 feet around your house. · Trim and separate plants and shrubs to stop fire from spreading. · Remove ladder fuels — plants, shrubs and low branches that let a fire on the ground climb into the trees. · Clear five feet around the base of the house and fill the space with fire resistant plants or materials such as rocks or gravel. · Take care of the clean, open space around your home on a regular basis. ---------- Twitter ablaze with fire information Share your wildfire stories, read about others or get updates on fire activity around the state on Facebook and Twitter. Follow cafirealliance on Twitter or search California Fire Alliance on Facebook. To read more about defensible space, visit ----------