Fire season is here: officials stress prevention
Twenty-five firefighters from the Truckee Ranger District battled one of the season’s first wildfires last Thursday, when a controlled burn by the U.S. Forest Service spread out of control about 10 miles southeast of Loyalton.
The fire started around 11 a.m. Thursday morning and consumed 400 acres of timber-rich land before firefighters were able to contain the blaze early Friday morning.
With the help of four different fire departments, the fire was finally extinguished Monday evening around 6 p.m.
About an hour after that fire began Thursday, another smaller blaze broke out just a dozen miles northeast of Truckee, between Floriston and Farad.
“We sent a water tender and a fire engine out there,” said Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Mike Terwilliger. “It only took about 30 minutes for us to help get that fire under control.”
Officials have yet to determine what caused the smaller fire that consumed about three acres of brush and timber on the south side of Interstate 80.
The two fires marked the return of wildfire season, which local fire officials say has shown up sooner than expected.
“I think we are a month ahead of schedule (this year),” said Duane Brunson, assistant district fire management officer for the Truckee Ranger District. “It’s time for people to start doing clearances around their home. It’s a chance for us to help save their home … it’s called defensible space.”
Defensible space refers to that area between a house and an oncoming wildland fire where the vegetation has been modified to reduce the wildfire threat and which provides an opportunity for firefighters to safely defend the house.
In a guide put out by The Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators, agencies outline the best ways to defend your home.
“There are basically three R’s in the modification of vegetation for defensible space,” said Mark Hummel of the USDA Forest Service. “Removal, reduction, and replacement.”
Removal involves eliminating plants that are either dead or too close to a home’s roof. Dead trees, shrubs and dried grass should be removed or placed in isolated areas at least 30 feet away from the home.
“They need to be disposed of, so if you’re doing it in the spring, you can either burn it or take it to the landfill,” said Gene Welch, public information and safety officer for the TFD. “Tahoe Donner has a chipping program, where they pick up all of your slash and burn it.”
The Tahoe Donner Chipping and Deadwood Pick-up program starts May 26 and any Tahoe Donner property owner can participate. Permits can be picked up from the Tahoe Donner Forestry Department or the NorthwoodsFire season is here
The second step in creating defensible space involves reducing the amount of low-lying tree branches and mowing dry grass. Removing plant parts, like branches or leaves, also constitutes reduction.
“Any tree limb overhanging your roof and any limbs within 15 feet of your chimney need to be removed,” said Hummel.
Replacement is the last of the three R’s. Replacement is the substitution of hazardous vegetation for more fire-resistant plants. For example, removing a dense stand of flammable shrubs and replacing them with a well-irrigated flower bed can help stop the rapid spread of a fire.
Although there are no fireproof plant species, the choice of plants, spacing and maintenance are crucial elements in any defensible space plan.
“In general, plants that are green and well-irrigated burn slowly when ignited,” said Hummel.
A few simple precautions can help keep your home and family safe during the upcoming fire season.
For more information about defensible space contact the Truckee Fire Protection District at (530) 582-7850.
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