CALIFORNIA – The last thing you want to do while working to protect your home from wildfire is to cause one, or to be fined or even arrested.
During the dry fire-prone months, Californians are extra diligent in keeping the dry weeds cut and under control in an effort to protect their property from potential wildfire.
But experts warn that if these efforts are done irresponsibly they can pose a hidden danger, causing fire instead of keeping it at bay.
Cal Fire Captain Fernando Herrera warns residents about the dangers posed by the equipment used to clear defensible space.
“If you’re mowing a grass area where there’s a lot of rocks or debris, a rock can strike the mower blade and create a spark and start a fire. If you’re using a weedeater, it could also create a spark and start a grass fire immediately.”
There’s a lot of tall dry grass that homeowners must remove in order to create a defensible space. But before the weedeater, the mower or the tractor comes out, homeowners must ensure they’re not doing the right thing, the wrong way.
Every year, firefighters respond to hundreds of fires started by Californian’s using equipment the wrong way. Officials say that all it takes to prevent these potential disasters is a few simple steps and a little extra caution.
Cut dry grass during the morning hours when humidity is higher, temperatures are lower, and the possibility of causing a fire is minimized. But even during the morning hours everyone should always stay alert and aware of their surroundings.
Residents should always carry basic safety tools to make sure they can extinguish a fire before it can spread.
“Make sure you have a fire extinguisher or a water supply, or even having just the basic shovel can help.”
Fire officials say that in addition to being financially responsible for the damage to surrounding properties, those that cause equipment-sparked fires can be cited and fined thousands of dollars, and even serve time in jail, all of which could have been avoided by following a few simple steps to do the right thing the right way.
Whether working to create defensible space around your home, just mowing the lawn, or pulling your dirt bike over to the side of the road, if you live in a wildland area you need to use all equipment responsibly.
Lawn mowers, weedeaters, chain saws, grinders, welders, tractors, and trimmers can all spark a wildland fire. Do your part, the right way, to keep your community fire safe.
Here’s how to do it the right way –
Mow before 10 a.m., but never when it’s windy or excessively dry. Lawn mowers are designed to mow lawns, not weeds or dry grass.
Metal blades striking rocks can create sparks and start fires. Use caution.
In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable gasoline-powered equipment. This includes tractors, harvesters, chainsaws, weedeaters and mowers.
Keep the exhaust system, spark arresters and mower in proper working order and free of carbon buildup.
Use the recommended grade of fuel and don’t top it off.
In wildland areas, grinding and welding operations require a permit and 10 feet of clearance. Keep a shovel and a fire extinguisher ready to use.
Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires that you won’t even see – until it’s too late!
Keep a cell phone nearby and call 911 immediately in case of fire.
To protect water quality, do not clear vegetation near waterways to bare soil. Vegetation removal can cause soil erosion especially on steep slopes.
Always keep soil disturbance to a minimum.