Eye on Fire Season
Two small blazes that ignited over the weekend near Prosser Reservoir in Truckee served as a prelude to the opening of the fire season Monday in Nevada and Placer counties.Though the Prosser spot fires likely caused from unattended campfires only burned small areas of brushland, the fires heightened fears of the long, hot season ahead.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection declared the start of fire season in the Nevada-Yuba-Placer area Monday. Fire stations are now fully staffed in preparation for the upcoming months, said Gina Chamberlin, the departments public information officer. But despite worries of a more severe season due to below-average winter precipitation, the May 14 date is on track with the departments usual start date, Chamberlin said. Last year, the season didnt open until June 5 because of above-normal precipitation and snowpack, she added.Attempting to predict a fire season is almost impossible, said Truckee Ranger Joanne Roubique. Were getting ready for a fire season that could be a really challenging one.The U.S. Forest Service has yet to announce the start of its fire season, said Roubique. However, the training of federal firefighting personnel is in full swing, she said. Drier conditions expected in the summer months are beginning to raise concerns for the possibility of rampant wildfires. The two Prosser fires, both within Tahoe National Forest, were likely the result of campfires that escaped, Roubique said. The fact that we had unattended fires was a concern, and we want people to pay attention, Roubique said.Sundays spot fire burned a 50-by-100-foot parcel and was extinguished, Chamberlin. The larger forest fuels are drying out faster this year and could pose dangers as possible fire-starters, Chamberlin said. As of April, precipitation was running at 40 to 80 percent of normal for Northern California. Were very below on the rainfall, she added.Roubique countered that although the area is experiencing drought conditions, some years of above-average rainfall also have proven to precede a busy wildfire season. Exceptionally rainy seasons create more plant growth, which in turn fuels wildfires, she explained.Burn permits are still being issued as are campfire permits, with deadlines for both yet to determined, Chamberlin said.
The public can help us by creating a defensible space, Chamberlin said. A defensible space is an area around a home or structure free of any debris that could easily catch fire. When clearing property, homeowners should operate equipment such as lawnmowers and weed-eaters responsibly to prevent a fire from starting accidentally. Homeowners should keep their homes roofs and gutters clear of debris and maintain a 10-foot clearance around chimneys, she said. Spark arrestors are required on all portable gas-powered equipment including tractors and motorcycles in wildland areas. Motorists should pay attention when pulling over on the side of the road, as hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can ignite dry grasses. The Truckee Fire Protection District initiated a wood-chipping program to assist residents with the removal of brush and branches from their property. The service is free of charge, said Gene Welch, Truckee Fires public safety and information officer. North Tahoe Fire also has a program that mirrors Truckees service and is available to residents, said North Tahoe Fire Battalion Chief Pat Dillon.Truckee Fire constantly trains and reviews the protocol for responding to both structure and wildland fires, Welch said. Fire equipment is also checked to ensure everything is up to standard, he said. North Tahoe fire crews typically begin preparing for the season when the snowpack melts, Dillon said, and this year we didnt have to wait that long.Local fire agencies gathered Monday to review strike team training in the event of a wildfire, Dillon said. Because of Tahoes rural landscape, fire crews practice working at the wildland-urban interface, which refers to special training to protect structures from wildland fires, he said.
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