Stopping fires before they start |

Stopping fires before they start

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 destructive Angora fire.

The weekend’s spot fires could have been worse. At 8 p.m. Friday, Truckee Fire responded to a trash fire started by oil-soaked rags on Tahoe Donner’s Swiss Lane, said Gene Welch, the fire district’s public safety and information officer.

The oily rags ignited by spontaneous combustion, but the resident managed to douse the flames before the fire spread.

“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 before discarding them.

“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 residents should either hang the rags out to dry or place them in a bucket of water.

Daria Kent, Nevada County recycling technician, said oily rags could be disposed of for free at a hazardous waste collection day, which can be found at

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

The fire started when someone dumped charcoal briquettes over a deck railing, but again residents on the scene 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, back-yard chefs should either soak the briquettes in water or keep them 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,” he added.

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