Sonora, CA — This last weekend of April CAL Fire officials are reminding those who own or tend to properties that time is running out to safely tend to defensible space chores.
CAL Fire Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit Chief Josh White is advising folks that that effective Tuesday, May 1, burn permits will be required, so this weekend is the last, best opportunity to get to those large burn piles. After that, he stresses, permits are required with rules that must be strictly abided by in order to prevent risking an escaped burn. The chief points out that escaped burns are the number one fire cause and likely come with hefty citations.
Last year, he says the Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit area recorded 250 ignitions with the leading cause of the fires being escaped control burns. Chief White emphasizes that those who were following the terms of their burn permits had no problems. “Once we get into the dryer part of the year…it could come in a few weeks…we will have to suspend all burning,” he warns.
New Zone Policy, Mowing Advisory
This year, CAL Fire has a new policy in place where those in Zone 1 — areas under 3,500 feet elevation — will likely be required to stop burning ahead of Zone 2, which is where elevations are above 3,500 feet. White says it will allow those who have been under some snow and have the higher fuel moistures will be able to let those fuels dry out before they burn them.
In addition to burning this weekend, Chief White says conditions are prime for mowing now instead of waiting until the grass is too brown to safely address with one. “Equipment use is the number two cause category, and what is a shame is when people are trying to do the right thing but doing it the wrong way,” White says ruefully. “A month from now a mower in dry grass is going to start a fire and is going to be one of those equipment-caused fires that we are trying to eliminate.”
As far as the fire season ahead, the chief comments, “As we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, obviously with these late-winter storms it is helping our fuel moistures. We are already starting to see things dry out throughout Southern California and I believe that it was Humboldt that had a 15-acre fire yesterday.”
Long-range models are unsurprisingly predicting another Mediterranean-like normal, hot/dry Northern California fire season. White shares that, effective Monday, the unit will be staffing 15 engines ahead of the 2018 fire season and that aircraft will begin arriving in the next couple of weeks at Columbia Airport with plans to have all the air units in place by the end of May.