Defensible space and weed abatement: It’s everyone’s responsibility, part 2
By Battalion Chief Mike Webb
Cameron Park Fire Department
In my previous submission, I discussed the need for each property owner in Cameron Park to begin the process of preparation for the upcoming fire season and summer months.
I wanted to share some information that might provide some encouragement for all residents to increase their “situational awareness” and to understand the level of risk that is associated with living in a “wildland interface” community such as Cameron Park. To demonstrate this I will use the three components of the “Wildland Fire Triangle” (Fuels, Weather and Topography). The Fire Triangle is a common fire service educational tool that is used to explain how fire reacts in its environment. By simply eliminating one leg of the triangle the threat of a catastrophic fire is easily avoided or eliminated.
Weather — The weather is a factor that is uncontrollable. But we know there are some seasonal expectations. We will typically receive 30 to 40 inches of rain that provides plenty of annual growth to native vegetation and occasionally a low snow that will smash and kill weak and diseased native plants. Also, we will normally have a five-month summer season when we will receive little rain and can expect 20 to 30 days of near 100 degree weather with humidity’s between 10 and 20 percent. On most hot, dry summer days Cameron Park typically experiences a southwest local wind at 10 to 15 miles per hour, unless there is a frontal weather system that breaks down the dominant high pressure. When that occurs there are significant increases in wind and changes in direction from southeast as the front approaches and changing clockwise to the north and Northeast as the front leaves the area. These frontal winds typically create our highest levels of fire danger. Wind is the most critical factor in the speed of fire spread and intensity.
Topography — Fire burns fastest uphill, the steeper the slope the faster the spread. Cameron Park is a beautiful north/south configured mountain valley with dominant ridgelines to the east and west. The ridges provide a great “view.” When the hillside aligns with the angle of the sun, primarily south to south-west exposure, the fuels can dry out rapidly and heat up significantly each day. The topography significantly contributes to rapid fire spreads by channeling winds, preheating fuels, altering the fuel types and continuity and creating convective influences on uphill fuels during a fire. This is important to understand and is something that is out of our control.
Fuels — When we look at our homes and the areas around them we immediately think of the vegetation. Cameron Park is surrounded by chaparral, which is a highly flammable combination of native shrubs that have evolved by their dependency on fire. I fully appreciate the natural landscape and especially at this time of the year when the redbud is bloom. However, our presence in this environment comes with the danger of wildfire. When you pull back a bit and take a drive on Woodleigh Drive you can see that the small open spaces around our homes seem to disappear and that our homes suddenly mix in with the vegetation creating a continuous fuel bed. Fortunately, as home and property owners, the vegetation and fuels are the one leg of the Fire Triangle that we can control. That is why the focus for the fire department is fixed on fuels reduction and defensible space around our homes.
With all of this in mind I remind each of you that we are in this together as a community. It is all of our responsibility to provide a safe community and to ensure that the threat of wildfire is reduced collectively. There are many ways to get rid of your green waste in Cameron Park. At Fire Station 89 located at 3200 Country Club Drive there is a free dumpster (for residents) available as well as vouchers for the transfer station. Also, Waste Connections is offering free curbside pickup when bagged and upcoming additional green waste pickup days. Call (530) 672-7358 or go to the CSD website, cameronpark.org, for further information regarding defensible space, fuels reduction and green waste pick-up and removal. You can also visit the Cal Fire website at fire.ca.gov.