By Ryan Peters, Fire Captain, Aptos-La Selva Fire District
Welcome to spring 2019! For many, winter couldn’t have gone away sooner. We had a fairly productive rainy season with plentiful snow falling in the Sierra. The late rains we’ve had this spring, coupled with some stretches of nice weather in between, have led to a very robust growth of new fuel across California.
The grass and brush have officially sprung and it’s this “light and flashy fuel” that poses some of the greatest threats of wild fire in our local community. This volatile fuel type, once burning, can create incredibly dangerous firefighting conditions when coupled with hot and dry weather. As Californians living in a dynamic fire environment, we must utilize due diligence and work together to mitigate the risks and consequences of wild fire in our neighborhoods.
Consider this fact: Of the ten most destructive (and deadly) wild fires in California history, nine have occurred since 2000 with last year’s tragic Camp Fire being the most deadly and costly wildfire ever. In 2017 we saw the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County kill 22 people and burn or destroy nearly 6,000 structures. We must be ready.
Here at the Aptos-La Selva Fire District, we are focused 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 fires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) 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.
As mentioned, our biggest concern for this fire season is the light and flashy grass fuel loading we are seeing. The rains we received this year have once again led to very active fuel growth in the area. Tall and robust grass is growing everywhere. Once this fuel completely cures and dries it will be ready to burn fast and hot. Our Firefighters ask that all neighborhoods work together to help mitigate this risk.
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. Weed whips 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 the end of March. We began a bit early 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. If 100’ isn’t possible due to property lines or topographic features, make attempts to provide as much space as possible. Our Firefighters appreciate your efforts! Thank you and stay safe!
For more info, visit www.Calfire.ca.gov or visit www.AptosFire.com.
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.