Our View: Summer set to start and so is fire season | SierraSun.com

Our View: Summer set to start and so is fire season

We all know how the wind howls over the Sierra Crest in January, carrying snow and cold down into Truckee and the Tahoe Basin.

The wind can be brutally chilly, uncomfortable and pile snow. But other than that it is nothing more than a minor inconvenience and no one gets hurt. Unless, of course, some hapless person gets lost in the woods as the windchill drops.

Fast-forward six months to June ” or to July, August, September or October ” and the landscape is much different. That wind once so cold is now working with the sun to suck moisture out of the trees and brush that make our area verdant.

This coming weekend is the kickoff of summer, which around these parts is the kickoff of fire season.

And there will be fire, just look at the blaze currently burning down the Truckee River Canyon. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get more dangerous. At some point there will be the combustible mix of low relative humidity, dwindling moisture content, persistent dry wind and high temperatures. The result will be what anyone familiar with California knows, or should know, all about ” a red flag day.

If a fire starts under what the CalFire, AKA the California Department of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service and municipal fire districts call a red flag warning, it’s going to move fast and char a lot of trees, destroy homes and possibly kill people.

That’s what happened on an October day about 16 years ago in the hills above Oakland. Burning embers from a smoldering duff pile were carried by wind into tree crowns and sparked one of the worst urban natural disasters in history.

Flames were fueled by closely bunched, parched pine trees and other vegetation that overhung homes. Unprotected wood decks extended out from many of the houses and over sloping terrain that was covered with easily combustible vegetation. (Does that landscape sound familiar?)

There might be some people out there who shrug that calamity off and ask, “What does the Oakland Hills fire have to do with living in the mountains?”

Well, for those of us in Truckee-Tahoe who don’t believe we live in a wildland-urban area, think again. And if you need help learning about such things as defensible space, chipping programs, fire-resistant materials ” tools to prevent your property from turning lush green to charcoal black ” help is available from local experts.

– North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s chipping program, 546-4347

– Truckee Fire Department (including Donner Summit), 582-7853 or 582-7850 for the chipping program

– Northstar Fire Department, 562-1212 general information

– Squaw Valley Fire Department, 583-6111 for all inquiries and annual defensible space evaluations

– CalFire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), 582-9471 for information on any topic

– U.S. Forest Service, Tahoe National Forest 587-3558 for all inquiries about USFS firefighting and prescribed burns in the Tahoe National Forest

It’s that time of year to take proactive steps to be fire safe. Don’t let that wind blow the ashes of your life into Nevada because you were unprepared.

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