It doesn’t take a crystal ball to recognize the growing severity of wildfire in our state and throughout the West. Fire incident reports from CAL FIRE (www.calfire.ca.gov) and the Incident Information System (www.InciWeb.org) tell a dire story. Of the fires burning now, the largest continues to be the 255,000-acre Rim Fire near and in Yosemite National Park. To date, this fire has threatened approximately 4,500 homes and structures, and tested the endurance of more than 5,000 firefighters. Even with containment at 80%, this fire is still very dangerous! There appears to be a growing consensus that the dangers inherent in wildfire are here to stay – especially as long as we expand our appetite for urban living in the wild, and limit fuel treatment in the forest.
Despite the predictions of more severe fires, there are steps we can take to improve our ability to withstand a wildfire in our community – prevention and preparation is crucial!
Once such prevention program is a campaign called “One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire.” Information can be found at www.preventwildfireca.org. The program was started in 2013 by the US Forest Service to energize communities throughout California to help prevent human-caused fires relating to sparks from vehicles and equipment.
Did you know that equipment is the most frequent cause of ignitions in California? Vehicle travel provides opportunities for sparks and heat sources to ignite dry, fine grasses. Sparks from dragging chains, flat tires, spark arresters, along with heat from catalytic converters, mufflers and engines are common causes of fires in the state. A disabled vehicle pulling off the side of the road may become the cause of a violent wildfire. Landscape equipment such as mowers, weed whackers, chainsaws and powered brush cutters are also sources of ignition and must be managed carefully.
What can an individual do to prevent wildfire and prepare for a worst-case scenario?
While we have limited control over nature, we can take precautions with equipment and vehicle use, and we can control the types and quantity of vegetative fire fuels around our homes and property. Defensible space planning, smart landscaping techniques, fire-resistant planting choices, scheduling of fuel treatments with an awareness of spark hazards, and basic good judgment, all play a role in surviving wildland fire.
For additional information on wildfire preparedness, start by visiting www.readyforwildfire.org. This excellent resource is produced by CAL FIRE. Information is also available at www.napafirewise.org. Wildfire is here. Are your set?