Tuolumne County, CA — Rim Fire Incident Command is touting a local group’s efforts that aided firefighters in pushing back the flames near Pine Mountain Lake. They say residents were able to return to their homes still standing just days after the flames swept by due to the efforts of the Southwest Interface Team (SWIFT). It is a group made up of county, state, federal and other outside agencies. SWIFT uses the Firewise program which creates fire adaptive communities through fuel treatments such as fuel breaks.
“The fuel breaks played a critical role in reducing the intensity of the fire in the Pine Mountain Lake community, their purpose was to reduce fuel loads and the work done the past five to seven years made the difference,” said SWIFT coordinator Allen Johnson.
Also, Fire Officials say maps drawn up by SWIFT were integral to the incident management team’s ability to identify locations of fuel reduction treatments and existing fire breaks for the Rim Fire. The Southern Area Incident Management Team overseeing the fire used this information in their pre-planning efforts for establishing fire and contingency lines.
“If every community completed this work it would protect more homes and make firefighting efforts less complex,” said Incident Commander Mike Wilkins.
SWIFT Officials say they use all possible resources to stop wild land fires by promoting prevention and protection strategies to areas populated with primary and secondary residences.
Since it started fourteen years ago, there have been seven major wildfire incidents, including the Rim Fire:
• Pilot Fire – 1999
• Hunter Fire – 2000
• Creek Fire – 2001
• Tuolumne Fire – 2004
• Don Pedro Fire – 2007
• Telegraph Fire of 2008
• Rim Fire 2013
SWIFT has worked with partners and landowners to promote Firewise communities since 1999. Here’s what they have created so far:
• 5,000 acres of prescribed burns
• 25 miles of road corridor treatments
• 8,800 mechanical mastication treatments
• 54 miles of shaded fuel break
• 79 miles of fuel breaks
SWIFT Officials say the goal is to continue to work to protect the local communities, the lives and property, and the natural resources through aggressive fire prevention and preparedness efforts.
SWIFT includes: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eldorado Hills Resource Area; California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; US Forest Service – Groveland Ranger District, Stanislaus National Forest; Cal-Fire – Tuolumne/Calaveras Ranger Unit, Madera/Mariposa/Merced Ranger Unit; Mariposa County Fire Department; Hetch Hetchy Water & Power; City and County of San Francisco; Yosemite Foothills Fire Safety Council; Mariposa County Fire Safe Council; California Department of Corrections; Central Sierra Resource Conservation District; Yosemite National Park and Pine Mountain Lakes Association.