How to prepare for fire season

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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With the fires in Santa Barbara being a tragic reminder of nature’s power, many rural Lincoln residents are preparing their homes for another fire season. “I keep the green zone around the biggest part of my house,” said Mike Smith, who lives off Wise Road and adjacent to the path the Gladding Fire took Labor Day. “Even the stuff that’s not green will be kept really short.” Less than a year ago, the Gladding Fire burned right up to Smith’s fence line, but didn’t claim “one square inch” of his property, he said. Smith credits the fact that he keeps the grass around his house green and cut short with saving it from destruction in the fire, which claimed several houses and outbuildings. “Mow early and mow often,” Smith advised. Carol Arcuri lives a short distance from Smith, and she said her landscaping and area of green grass helped firefighters save her house during the Gladding Fire. “That’s the first thing we thought of when we moved out here,” said Arcuri, who has lived in rural Lincoln for 10 years. Living a little farther up Wise Road, Rod Sutton was mowing his grass Thursday afternoon for the second or third time this year. “Usually, you only have to mow it once,” Sutton said, “but with the rains we’ve had this year, I’ve had to do it again.” Sutton said the wild grass on his property grew six to eight inches over the course of two weeks. “I keep the grass near the road short, too,” Sutton said, adding that if someone tosses something like a cigarette butt into tall grass along the road, it could cause a wildfire. “We’re probably going to have a bad fire season this year,” Sutton said. In addition to mowing the grass, Sutton said he keeps brush and other combustibles cleared away from the house. Last summer, hundreds of homes and more than 1 million acres of land across California were burned by wildfires in one of the worst fire seasons in history, according to a Cal Fire press release. “Last year’s wildfires once again highlighted how important it is for homeowners to prepare their homes to survive a wildfire,” said Chief Del Walters, Cal Fire director, in a press release. There are a number of ways homeowners can make their homes less likely to be consumed in a wildfire. ? Remove all flammable vegetation 30 feet from all buildings ? In an additional 70 feet, space trees and plants away from each other ? Clear all needles and leaves from roofs, eaves and rain gutters ? Trim branches six feet from the ground ? Only use trimming, mowing and power equipment before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m., and not on very hot or windy days ? Landscape with fire-resistant plants ? Use fire-resistant building materials “You just want to make sure that your home is defensible,” said Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt. Whitt said homeowners within city limits should adhere to many of the same guidelines, with special care taken to not create large concentrations of combustible materials in one spot that can serve as fuel sources for a fire. The ideal situation, according to Whitt, would be for firefighters to see a house that is so well protected from fires that resources don’t need to be diverted from fighting the fire to protect it. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at