By Captain Ryan Peters, Aptos-La Selva Fire District
Since I began writing this column, it seemed like our winter was going to be endless. Now, it appears we are officially through our rainy season and getting into warmer weather. I hope you’ve been getting out and enjoying it!
Here at the Aptos-La Selva Fire District, we are beginning to focus on the upcoming fire season and community safety as it relates to keeping your homes safe from the threat of wildfire. It is no secret that, even with a great water-producing year such as this, fires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) still pose an incredible amount of safety concerns. In Aptos and the hilly areas surrounding our community, there are many neighborhoods that either border or are built within forested and heavily fueled areas. Our main goal is to ensure fire safety in these communities and mitigate the threat and destructive scope of wildfire.
By teaming up with you and your neighbors, we are working with the community to make sure that homeowners take the time this spring to create 100 feet of defensible space around their homes. We encourage neighborhoods to work together to see that their homes have the very best chance of surviving a significant fire event.
Our biggest concern for this fire season is the light and flashy grass fuel loading we are seeing. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this water year is the second wettest in 122 years of record keeping. California averaged nearly 31 inches of precipitation statewide, nearly the highest average since 1895. This moisture has led to a grass fuel crop twice the loading of a normal water year. Tall and robust grass is growing everywhere. Once this fuel completely cures and dries, which will most likely be in June or July this year, it will be ready to burn fast and hot. Let’s work together to minimize the threat of wildfire.
In 2005, California State law mandated that homeowners maintain 100‘ of defensible space around their homes. Begin by taking this 100’ and divide it into two separate zones: a 30‘ foot zone closest to your home, and a second 70‘ zone outside of that first zone. Inside that first 30’ the fuel management should be “lean, green, and clean.” There should be no weeds, or dry fuels in this area. Landscaped, fire resistive plants and certain types of trees are acceptable as long as they are properly limbed and maintaining a fire safe distance. Pine needles and dry leaves should be cleared from decks, roofs, eaves, and rain gutters.
The second outer zone should extend 70‘ (or to your property line) and should focus on the clearance of all light, flashy fuel types. Maintained landscaping and trees are ok. Mow all light fuels to approximately 4” in height. Be careful not to disturb root systems as this will help prevent mudslides and slip outs once the rainy season returns.
If your property is set on a hillside, elect to manage all fuels downhill of your home first. Fire burns more quickly and intensely as it moves uphill. Make downhill fuels your top priority.
Our fire crews are all about your safety. We ask that everyone post highly visible address numbers (at least 4” in height) on a contrasting background. This helps us locate you faster and get to work more quickly in a dynamic fire event. There are many driveways in our area that are well over 100’ in length. Please make sure that these long driveways are vertically cleared to at least 15’. This allows us to get our fire engines and vehicles up to your home safely and efficiently.
At the Aptos-La Selva Fire District, our staff has been preparing for fire season since April. We began a bit early this year since we anticipate a significant fire season later this summer. Please help us keep everyone safe by giving us 100’ of defensible space around your homes. Thank you and stay safe!
As always, feel free to stop by any one of our three fire stations if you’d like to ask our Firefighters questions about wildfire safety or call (831) 685-6690.