Stopping fire before it starts | SierraSun.com

Stopping fire before it starts

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

In what is stacking up to be a particularly dangerous fire season, officials say that even the smallest fire-prevention precautions are important.

Two small fires that started Friday and Sunday in Tahoe Donner could have been prevented by a few simple measures, according to Truckee Fire Protection District officials. Dealing with oily rags, barbecue ashes, campfires, and cigarettes in the appropriate manner could mean the difference between a safe summer and another Angora Fire.

On Friday at 8 p.m. in Tahoe Donner on Swiss Lanes, Truckee Fire responded to a trash fire started by oil soaked rags, said Gene Welch, public safety and information officer for the fire protection district.

The fire was started by spontaneous combustion in the rag, but was put out by the resident before the fire spread, he said.

“Spontaneous combustion is caused by materials like oil applied with a rag, then the rag is wadded up, and as the oil tries to decompose in the fabric heat is generated until ignition,” Welch said.

He said this type of fire is common this time of year when people are staining or sealing wood, then balling up the rags and throwing them away.

“That’s a very flammable liquid on the rag that burns very hot and fast, that’s the kind of thing that can take a building down,” Welch said.

Instead, Welch said the rags should either be hung out to dry or placed in a bucket of water.

On Sunday, also in Tahoe Donner on Peregrine Drive, the fire district responded to a vegetation fire covering a roughly 8-by-10-foot area behind a home, Welch said.

The fire started when somebody dumped charcoal briquettes over a deck railing, but again local residents were able to extinguish the fire before engines arrived, Welch said.

“Charcoal briquettes are the same as the ashes out of a stove or fireplace, embers can last three to five days after the fire is out,” he said.

Instead of pitching the charcoal over the back fence, the briquettes should either be soaked in water or kept in a metal container for a week, Welch said.

“Any embers that get on the ground or deck can be hazardous, people need to be careful when transferring them to a different container,” Welch said.