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2002 Fire Season “below Average”

Area fire officials breathed a collective sigh of relief today.

The 2002 fire season ended at 8 a.m. Friday morning, quietly marking a below average summer for acres burned in the two county region of the Mother Lode.

Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Richard Imlach said less than 1,000-acres were consumed by flames during the 2002 summer fire season.

This figure is a far cry from last year’s totals. Normally throughout a typical summer fire season, Imlach estimated the area averages between 5,000-to-6,000-acres.

Two major wildfires during 2001 – the Darby Fire in Calaveras County and the Creek Fire that spread from Mariposa County into Tuolumne County near Groveland – shot the total acreage burned in the range unit, to more than 30,000 he said.

“Last year was an exceptional year,” Imlach said. “This year’s exceptional on the other side. And it´s definitely better to have it on the least amount of damage and acres burnt.

CDF officials are still tabulating figures for the number of fires during this fire season. “At last count we were average for the number of fires we experienced,” Imlach said. Luckily, he added, all the fires this season were contained at very small acreages.

The fire chief attributes the lack of catastrophic wildfires to several factors. “One of which was, we didn’t have any lightning, ” Imlach said. A burn suspension all summer long kept debris burning in check and the public was very cautious using equipment such as lawn mowers, he said.