Homeowners asked to prepare for busy fire season

As dry conditions continue to worsen, Cal Fire is asking for your help in preventing a devastating fire season.
March 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Cal Fire crews are asking people to get ready for a busy fire season. So far this year, Cal Fire has battled more than 665 fires, and it's only March. That's more than triple the average for this time of year. And as those already dry conditions continue to worsen from the drought, they're asking for your help in preventing a devastating year.

The grass may be green from recent rains, with wildflowers blooming in the foothill, but firefighters warn it will quickly change as the weather heats up -- creating the perfect storm for fire to break out.

"Even though there's a little bit of grass on the floor beneath us, it's not time to let our guard down," said Capt. Ryan Michaels with Cal Fire Fresno County. "We're predicting a very eventful, potentially devastating fire season as conditions over the last few years have continued to deteriorate."

Which is why this year, Cal Fire is starting defensible space inspections early because of the drought -- sending crews door-to-door in high-risk areas to ensure homeowners are maintaining at least 100 feet of defensible space around their homes.

"The material that we're really concerned about: the brush, the timber, those dead logs; that's not going to change at all, so there's still significant threat out there, and people shouldn't have that false sense of security," said Michaels.

Fire inspectors are asking people to remove flammable vegetation, to space out trees and plants, and to trim branches to create a buffer zone around their house to help firefighters reduce potential dangers.

"There's a couple key features that we're looking for. Some is clearing the material on the roof, whether it's dead or drying leaves, whether it's overhanging branches near a chimney. Some of those materials we just need to get away," said Michaels.

Right now, Michaels says inspectors are educating homeowners rather than issuing citations or fines.

"They really want to work with the homeowner to figure out exactly let's give them the best opportunity for a successful summer," said Michaels.

He says the inspections are intended to be a proactive way to deal with the drought and better prepare homeowners for what is expected to be a busy fire season ahead.

"They'll be leaving checklists and guidelines whether they were compliant or the things that they need to work on in order to be ready for this wildfire season," said Michaels.

Inspections are funded by the fire prevention fee homeowners pay in rural areas. For more information on defensible space, or what materials to clear away from your home, click here.

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