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Don't spark a fire while preventing one

Time of day, type of tool are important when clering brush
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Doing the right thing the wrong way can have disastrous results, especially when clearing property to prevent wildfires. According to Chelsea Fox, spokesperson for Cal Fire, a resident on Citrus Colony Road recently sparked a wildfire while taking precautions to prevent one. She said improper use of a riding mower in the late afternoon started a fire that blackened eight acres. “Equipment-use fires are started by people trying to do the right thing the wrong way,” Fox said. Fox said the conflagration was started when cut grass built up on the mower deck, sur-rounded the drive shaft and created friction, which ignited the grass. Fox said the mower operator was cited for “irresponsible equipment use” and could be liable for the cost of the fire suppression. That suppression included firefighters from Loomis, Penryn, Newcastle, Rocklin and Cal Fire. A recent one-acre fire on Val Verde Road started while a resident was attempting to cut dry grass in the early afternoon. That fire is still under investigation, but fire officials believe spilled fuel may have contributed to the blaze. Fox said lawn mowers, weed-eaters, chain saws, grinders, welders, tractors and trimmers can all start wildland fires and should be used with care. “A rock strike can cause a fire. Something as simple as combing the area to be mown for rocks and removing them can help,” Fox said. Capt. Darrell Jones, with Loomis Fire, said this spring’s late rainy season created more vegetation growth that has quickly dried out. Jones said he expects the fire season to run through October and November. Weed mowing, Jones said, should have been completed in spring, but can still be under-taken if done correctly. “Pay attention. Don’t use anything with metal blades. Use a weed-eater with twine and do it at 6 a.m.,” Jones said. Sheryl Luttringer, of Loomis, and her family know the importance of clearing weeds and vegetation. During the fire that swept through Loomis in 2002, the Luttringer family lost their barn, but were able to save their home because they had a defensible space and Sheryl’s husband, Keith, kept the fire at bay with a garden hose. “It was really scary,” she said. Ironically, the Luttringers had properly maintained their property, but a neighboring field that was not mown caught fire and rained burning embers onto her property, Luttringer said. Fox said “depending on the fire size, large flying embers carried by wind can travel one half to one mile” creating blazes as they drop. Cal Fire, Fox said, is prepared for fire season. She said they adjust their response status every two hours during the day based on weather conditions. She said low dispatch mode calls for two engines; medium dispatch mode requires four engines plus a hand crew, bulldozer, helicopter, air attack craft and tank aircraft. At high alert, two additional engines and an additional hand crew respond. “Our motto is ‘Go ugly, early.’ We don’t send the bare minimum. It’s better to cancel what you don’t need then to go in without them,” Fox said. Fox said the cost estimate for fire response starts at approximately $1,500. The cost is determined by the length of time the fire burns, the amount of response and what is burned. “It can go into the millions for a large fire with structures involved,” Fox said. ------------------ WILDFIRE PREVENTION Structures: Remove flammable vegetation within 30 feet and an additional 70 feet of fuel reduction, clear needles and leaves from roof, eaves and gutters. Trim branches six feet from ground. Use properly maintained trim, mow and power equipment before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. Establish and maintain emergency vehicle access and emergency water reserves Source: Cal Fire