Despite the recent less-than-sunny weather, the hot, dry season is right around the corner. And that means fire risk.
This week is state Wildfire Awareness Week, a reminder for residents, particularly those in Los Altos Hills, to cut back drying brush and other fire hazards around their properties if they haven’t already done so.
Between Los Altos Hills County Fire District services, classes and Web site information, residents have little excuse not to prepare. The fire district, which encompasses the town and surrounding unincorporated areas, offers a brush-chipping program twice a year, during which crews will pick up brush and tree branch cuttings. The district staffs a garden debris drop-off program at Foothill College the third Saturday of every month.
In addition, district officials have a dead pine-tree removal program in place (more than 500 trees removed thus far), and they plan to begin a eucalyptus tree program this summer in areas west of Interstate 280.
Stuart Farwell, a district fire protection consultant who has been involved in firefighting for more than 50 years, said eucalyptus trees in the hills were responsible for the devastating 1985 Los Altos Hills fire that gutted between 12 and 14 homes. Although summer weather conditions in the hills are not as conducive to big blazes as they are in other areas, Farwell noted the 1985 fire, which burned down approximately 12 homes, serves as a reminder for residents to take precautions.
A Santa Clara County weed abatement program requires homeowners to clear brush, vegetation and dry grass at least 30 feet away from structures. Houses with yard slopes exceeding 20 percent on the downhill side of the structure require 100 feet of clearance to provide what firefighters refer to as "defensible space." Property inspections were scheduled in April.
The fire district, formed in 1939, contracts with the Santa Clara County Fire Department to respond to fires and emergencies in Los Altos Hills. It contracts with experts in the installation and maintenance of water pipeline systems and installation of fire hydrants.
In addition to brush-clearing services, the district provides education through emergency-preparedness classes.
"Our intent is to give back to the taxpayer and increase the level of fire protection," Farwell said.
For more information, visit www.lahcfd.org.