Tue09022014

News

LAH protected from devastating wildfires, but risks exist


Photo By: Courtesy of David Bergman
Photo Courtesy Of David Bergman

Local firefighters participate in a wildfire training exercise earlier this summer.

Although a major fire hasn’t broken out in the area this summer, local fire personnel claim that they are vigilantly monitoring conditions.

“We’re just peaking in the fire season,” said David Bergman, Los Altos Hills County Fire District commissioner.

County fire officials noted that this year’s hot and dry weather makes grass, brush and other natural materials ideal fuel for fires – even in the Bay Area, where cool temperatures and high moisture content normally provide insulation from fire threat.

The fire district has established extra patrols to monitor for hazards, including illegal burning, that might catalyze a fire. Cal Fire reported that nearly 95 percent of all wildland fires within its jurisdiction are man-made.

A fire sparked by a park user at Enid W. Pearson-Arastradero Preserve in Palo Alto Aug. 16 burned nearly 4 acres. More extensive damage might have resulted if the fire had not been extinguished early.

Although the fire district doesn’t want to stop local residents from enjoying backyard barbecues, officials advise residents to think long and hard before starting a fire where it shouldn’t be.

“After 10 a.m., you shouldn’t be running a weed whacker or mower,” said Bergman, adding that throwing logs into an uncontrolled fire pit is a bad idea.

Santa Clara County has prohibited backyard burning since 1970 in an effort to reduce air pollution. County fire personnel said the Santa Clara County Fire Department imposes penalties ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars on anyone who starts an illegal fire. Individuals who violate the burn ban are also subject to fines from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a regional entity that monitors and enforces district regulations.

For local fire personnel, burn bans and pre-emptive measures are a way to prevent fires from starting. The Los Altos Hills County Fire District trims eucalyptus trees for residents, frequently updates hydrants and analyzes readings from a Los Altos Hills weather site to prevent and prepare for potential fires.

Bergman said the district has sufficient equipment to battle any fire that might break out in the local community. The department recently dispatched Engine 314 from the El Monte Fire Station at Foothill College to Yosemite National Park to help manage fires in the area.

As of the end of July, the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center recorded 2,158 fires across 46,000 acres of land in Northern California.

For updated fire conditions in Northern California, visit gacc.nifc.gov. For more information on preparing for wildfires, visit readyforwildfire.org.

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