Fresno County fire crews brace for long and busy fire season

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fire season is well underway. Fresno County fire crews have battled several grass fires these past few weeks. Grasses and brush which came to life during our wet winter are drying up.

"We've been exceptionally busy already. On the west side we've had as large as 160 acres already so the fire is there," said Fresno County Fire Protection Unit chief Mark Johnson. "The Valley floor is already dried out. The mountains are right behind it."

Crews with the California National Guard have joined Cal Fire on a fuel reduction project to help keep residents safe. This fuel break covers 200 feet on both sides of Beal Fire Road.

"Basically going in with hand tools, chainsaws, shovels, pollaskies and they're managing the vegetation, meaning they're reducing the vegetation," said Cal Fire assistant southern region chief Craig Tolmie. "Cutting it down for either chipping or burning at the appropriate time and it's turning it into what I like to describe as a park-like setting."

Their work will continue through summer.

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This is one of five high priority fuel reduction projects for Cal Fire. The others include fuel breaks in Blue Canyon as well as Shaver Lake.

Maintaining buffers in mountain communities is extremely important.

"We'll get a grass fire and as it spreads into this brush, then the brush will carry it up to the timber," Johnson said.

The amount of dead trees due to the bark beetle creates another fire season challenge.

"This part of the state represents some of the most dead trees anywhere else in the entire state," said Fresno County supervisor Nathan Magsig. "There are about 25 million dead trees alone in Fresno County."

Fire crews are doing their part but officials remind property owners they have to do theirs and create 100 feet of defensible space around their home.
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