OAKHURST – Just as firefighters were dealing with a medical rescue at Angel Falls and an unconscious person at Recreation Point in the Bass Lake area, they were called out for a fire reported on Wortham Road near Oakhurst.
The first unit at scene reported the fire had been put out by residents, after burning just over one-tenth of an acre of grass between a house and the road.
Fortunately, these residents were prepared when the fire started, but it’s a good opportunity for Cal Fire to remind everyone that the last thing you want to do while working to protect your home from wildfire is to cause one, or to be billed for suppression efforts made necessary by negligent actions, and unintended consequences.
During the dry fire-prone months, mountain area residents are extra diligent in keeping the dry weeds cut and under control, yet every year firefighters respond to hundreds of fires started by well-intentioned people using equipment the wrong way. All it takes to prevent these potential disasters is a few simple steps and a little extra caution.
If you’re mowing a grass area where there are a lot of rocks or debris, be aware that a rock can strike the mower blade, create a spark and start a fire. If you’re using a weedeater, it could also create a spark or overheat.
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 one needs to be aware and constantly monitor the area, always looking back to make sure a spark hasn’t start a fire.
Residents should always have basic safety tools handy to ensure they can extinguish a fire before it can spread — a water supply, fire extinguisher and basic hand tools. And how about a phone for a 911 call?
Lawn mowers, weedeaters, chain saws, grinders, welders, tractors, and trimmers can all spark a wildland fire.
Fire officials say that in addition to being financially responsible for the damage to surrounding properties, anyone causing an equipment-sparked fire 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:
- 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.