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Arastradero Preserve exercise controls brush, tests wildland fire fighting skills


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Firefighting personnel supervise a controlled burn at the Arastradero Preserve near Los Altos Hills last week in preparation for the dry summer season.

 

During a prescribed burn at Arastradero Preserve May 30, the image of before and after was stark. A deer creeping through dry brush from the tree cover along Los Trancos Creek juxtaposed with a charred field spotted with lines of smoke dissipating into the brightness of the noon light just an hour later.

Whether created by nature or by man, fire is a natural mechanism for cleansing the landscape and preserving native species and animals. Last week’s prescribed burn at the preserve, 622 acres near Los Altos Hills, served the purpose of removing brush that could fuel a major wildland fire at the preserve and subsequently inflict damage on the homes and property around it.

Fire risk is high for residents who live in Los Altos Hills. A 1985 blaze at Liddicoat Lane and Arastradero Road destroyed nine homes and caused millions of dollars in damage.

During last week’s burn of an 11-acre plot, firefighters cut a clear path, creating a defensive zone in the landscape along a defined perimeter for fire containment.

A team of 30 to 40 trained personnel from Santa Clara County Fire Department and Cal Fire were briefed and tasked with roles. Wind and temperature were monitored for danger, the perimeter checked and rechecked, stray brush re-trimmed and crew from the Santa Clara County Fire Department and teams strategically stationed at possible problem zones.

A firing line moved quickly along the path of the prescribed burn, lighting the grass low to the ground with small torches. A back line followed the fire, along with a mobile unit equipped with hoses and water to extinguish wayward sparks or hot embers.

The fire concluded on schedule and as safely as planned. Commuters passing through Arastradero preserve during the evening commute – or even the returning deer – might not even know that the fire had occurred.

To view more photos from the prescribed burn, click here.

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