NORTH FORK – A property owner who has been working hard to do the right thing and get her land cleared of the nearly 100 percent tree mortality, did the right thing again when she called for firefighters after a burn pile got away.
A resident on Cascadel Drive had hired a crew to clear her property, but when she terminated their services, they removed the shovels and rakes from around the burn piles. She was not aware of this until after she lit off a pile this morning.
By the time she went back to the house to get a rake and shovel and returned to the pile, the flames were creeping through the heavy carpet of dead pine needles and branches. Though she figured she may be able to just stamp it out since it wasn’t moving very fast, she chose the safest option.
“I hesitated about whether or not to call for the firefighters, but I’m glad I did,” she said. “I didn’t want to take the chance of the fire going into the standing dead trees.”
The owner said she has been working almost nonstop throughout the winter, falling the massive number of dead trees, piling and burning slash, spending over $25,000 on the project so far, and getting rid of 12 trailer-loads of logs. But when this happened, she wanted to make sure her neighbors weren’t put in danger, so she called for help.
The first engine on scene was Cal Fire 4255 out of Rancheria Station in North Fork. FAE Matt Prescott assumed command of the incident, and he and a Rancheria firefighter stopped the forward progress within 10 minutes of their arrival.
Engine 4285 and one Mount Bullion crew were working on the hazard tree project on Road 274 near Fawn Point and also responded, along with Engine 4255 from Bass Lake, Sierra National Forest Engine 52, and North Fork’s Madera County Fire Engine 11.
Crews got a hose lay around the burn in short order and began working hot spots and cutting up downed logs. Prescott estimated the burn at less than one-quarter acre. Firefighters stayed at scene for several hours to do mop-up, strengthen the line, and make sure the fire was dead out.
With these past few weeks of dry weather, the remaining moisture in the dead and dying trees is gone, and even though the ground is damp, needles, twigs and branches are ripe for even the simplest ignition source.
“I just lit this off with a match,” said the property owner.
The crew from Engine 4285 confirmed that they are finding those same dry conditions as they work on their project on Road 274.
Residents are reminded to follow the instructions on their burn permits, clear firebreaks around piles, and don’t burn when it’s windy.