Officials brace for devastating fire season
Ramona resident Kim Lasley captures this photo from Lone Oak Trail during the early stages of the Feather Fire that Cal Fire said started shortly after 1 p.m. Monday. Kim Lasley
Warm temperatures and plenty of dry grass crops could produce devastating wildfires in Ramona and the rest of Southern California this year, according to fire officials. Ramona residents living in Barona Mesa and San Diego Country Estates got a taste of what may be in store when a fire that started in Barona Monday afternoon spread quickly to 50 acres and threatened homes in Barona Mesa (see related article).
Cal Fire and San Diego County are preparing for this year's fire season by staffing all state resources, banning burn permits for the remainder of the summer and promoting fuel reduction programs such as defensive space clearing, said Cal Fire Chief Steve Foster.
"Per usual, the threat will be greater in August and September when the crops are even drier and we tend to get more Santa Ana winds," he said.
Cal Fire has lined up 10 aircraft from various area agencies to help fight a fire should it break out in the region and has the option to add up to 30 more should help from the military be needed. On the ground, 18 U.S. Forest Service engines, 30 Cal Fire engines, three water tenders, four bulldozers and 19 inmate hand crews are ready to go should they be needed to combat a large fire, said Foster.
"So we're doing our part, but there is going to be a big part that the public needs to do," said Foster. "We cannot do this all alone."
Cal Fire is encouraging residents to create two zones around their homes. The first zone will consist of the first 30 feet around the structure. That zone, said Foster, should be cleared of all dead or dying vegetation, tree branches less than 10 feet from the home and any decks, woodpiles and any other combustible materials.
The next zone expands 100 feet around the home and should have grass no higher than four inches off the ground and a limited amount of fallen leaves, twigs and other yard debris. Trees in the 100-foot zone should also be far enough apart from one another that their branches have a minimum 10-foot gap between them.
When cutting grass, residents should do so in the early morning when temperatures are lower and humidity is higher, said Foster, adding that everyone should also avoid using metal blades on their weed eaters.
At the very least, residents should make sure their address is clearly visible from the street and clear all items that could easily ignite within 10 feet of a propane tank, such as trash and shrubbery.
"Doing these minimums will increase the chances of your home surviving a wildfire," said Foster.
Technology can also be utilized should a big wildfire break out in Ramona this year.
Foster points to Ready San Diego's free app as a tool everyone should download to their electronic devices. It is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Residents can also visit the website, readysandiego.org, to learn more about how to prepare for a large fire.
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