As the heart of wildfire season approaches, state fire agencies are asking for the public’s help to prevent wildfires—95 percent of which in California are caused by human activity, according to Cal Fire.
As part of the One Less Spark—One Less Wildfire campaign, Cal Fire highlights four major areas of concern that can cause a wildfire:
Using outdoor equipment. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, grinders, welders, tractors, and weed-eaters can all spark a wildland fire. Mow before 10 a.m. when it’s coolest but never when it’s windy or excessively dry. Metal blades striking rocks can create sparks and start fires. In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable gas-powered equipment.
Grinding and welding operations in wildland areas require a permit and 10 feet of clearance. Don’t drive a vehicle onto dry grass or brush—hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires. Keep a shovel and fire extinguisher nearby.
Debris burning. First, obtain any burn permits that may be required and be sure burning isn’t currently restricted in your area.
Landscape debris piles must be in small 4-foot by 4-foot piles. Clear all flammable material and vegetation within 10 feet of the pile’s outer edge, and keep a water supply and shovel nearby. An adult is required by law to be in attendance until the fire is out. No burning should be done in unsafe conditions, particularly if it’s windy and surrounding vegetation is very dry.
Campfires. Be sure to have any necessary permits for a campfire, and check on any local fire restrictions in the area. Select an open, flat location for the campfire and be sure there are no heavy fuels (logs), brush, leaves, or needles within 10 feet of the fire ring.
Never leave a campfire unattended and keep a shovel and bucket of water on hand. Never leave children around a fire unattended.
To completely extinguish a campfire, Cal Fire recommends the “drown, stir, and feel” method. Drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire pit coals with a shovel to be sure remaining embers are out. Smother the ashes with dirt and, finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is smoldering.
Vehicle and towing safety. To practice safe towing, secure any chains that could possibly drag and throw sparks. Use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains. Be sure your vehicle is properly maintained, and that there are no dragging parts that could cause a spark. Make sure your brakes are in good working order—brakes worn too thin can cause metal-to-metal contact, which may cause a spark.
For additional information on wildfire prevention and safety, visit Cal Fire’s website, www.calfire.ca.gov, and the agency’s accompanying site, www.readyforwildfire.org.