CENTRAL SIERRA – This is a firefighter. We love them. So why are you doing things that may keep them from going home to their families?
For example: You’re out on your lawnmower, thinking you’re doing the right thing getting that very dry grass cut down. And then you hit a rock…
It only takes one spark!
Cal Fire regularly puts out public notices politely reminding people of the dangers they pose to their own families, homes and neighbors by doing dangerous things like mowing dry grass at 3 p.m. on hot, windy days. People don’t listen.
I, however, am not constrained by the dictates of the agency, and needn’t be so polite, so I’m going to do some “edits” to their press release —
Stop mowing your dry grass! Lawn mowers are designed to mow lawns. Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation. Use a weed trimmer to cut down dry weeds and tall grass.
As the fire reporter for Sierra News Online, I often find myself standing in the baking sun somewhere, watching firefighters do their best to save your house… from you!
If you must, at this late date, use power equipment on dry grass, do it before 10 o’clock in the morning when humidity is higher and winds are calm.
It’s hot, it’s dry, and after heavy winter rains, there’s a bumper crop of dry grass just waiting there — a nice, receptive fuel bed that will create up to 10-foot flame lengths reaching into your trees, and then the game is on.
Don’t set your weedeater down in the dry grass, and then wander off to go get a gas can. A hot weedeater can easily start a fire.
Do you have a spark arrester on that thing? Do you have a hose, shovel or fire extinguisher nearby? Where’s your cell phone? Are you going to have to run back to the house to find a phone to call 911 when you spark off a fire?
Don’t refuel your equipment when it’s still hot from being used, and then slop gasoline onto the dry grass.
Have someone keeping an eye on the area you’re working to watch for signs of fire.
If you are cutting grass with anything that has a metal blade, walk the area first and check for rocks. I can personally attest to dozens of fires — some that were huge and closed down major roadways and caused people to have to evacuate their homes — that were started by metal striking rock, and the operator being totally unaware until it was necessary to call out the firefighters.
With all the potential for deadly fire this summer, take it upon yourself to make sure you’re not creating a situation in which valuable — and often scarce — resources are sitting in your driveway putting out a fire that was easily avoided.
As Cal Fire often reminds us, 95 percent of fires are caused by humans. Don’t be one of those humans. Let common sense prevail.
Everyone loves our firefighters. People take to social media every time there’s an incident to praise their efforts. But let’s be clear — every unnecessary fire puts their lives in danger.
Love a firefighter by not doing stupid stuff!
For those who wish to truly be prepared for the fire season ahead, please visit www.ReadyForWildfire.org. There’s an app for that!