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Warm weather prompts early fire season

ABHUTCHISON , Sierra Sun

With drier and warmer than normal weather conditions and fires burning in Northern California, fire season seems to have arrived early this year.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service sent 23 Tahoe National Forest personnel to fight fires burning on Mendicino wildlands.

This spring, wildland fires have already burned in Mendicino, Shasta-Trinity, Plumas, Lassen and El Dorado counties; totaling more than 4,320 acres of forest service lands in the last month.

“As as result of these fires, we’ve been given emergency funding from Washington to staff engines to support Northern California,” Truckee Ranger District Fuels Officer Kathy Murphy said. “Due to abnormal conditions for this time of year, we’re staffing our wildland engines approximately two months earlier than we do in a normal year.”

While local TNF personnel returned from Mendicino last Friday, fire officials have been watching weather conditions with concern.

“We’re nervous. If it keeps up like this, it looks like we’ll have a long fire season,” Murphy said.

Truckee and Sierraville Ranger Districts have staffed two additional engines and one helicopter to be available for wildland fires.

“We got all of our moisture all at once,” Murphy said. “It’s been a very different year as far as weather. We’re fortunate we got a lot of our hazard reduction done early.”

Murphy said the forest service did a lot of its spring prescribed burning in December and January this winter.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Bryce Keller said the current weather pattern should be a reminder for people to think about defensible space around their homes.

“If weather conditions continue as they have this spring, the window of opportunity for a large damaging fire will be much larger,” Keller said. “The problem will be far greater if the dry period lasts longer.”

Keller said that it doesn’t mean that moisture won’t come in late April or May. He estimates that fire season for CDF will begin approximately two weeks early this year compared to a normal year.

“Here locally if weather patterns continue, we will probably bring on summer crews as early as May 1,” Keller said. “Spring arrived about four weeks earlier than usual with the drying patterns.”

Thinking about defensible space with an early, dry spring is important, he said.

“We want to encourage residents to do their door-yard clean-up to provide themselves with defensible space,” Keller said. “It will not only protect their home shelter, but it will also proved them with a point of refuge so they may shelter in place during a wild fire.”

Residents should also be aware of burn permit rules and proper burn days. The Truckee Fire Protection District requires burn permits year-round, and for surrounding areas outside of the district, burn permits are required after May 1.

Burn permits can be obtained at Truckee Fire Station 91 or 92. For information, call 582-7850.


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