It’s a dangerous year for fire. Cal Fire is stretched past the limit this year, fighting more fires than ever before with less help than they’ve ever had. Farmers and ranchers are growing concerned that if a wildfire approaches their property, the kind of response we’ve come to expect from Cal Fire may not happen. They are doing a tremendous job, but your local fire crews are out on the fire line and they are exhausted from 48 hour shifts and too little help.
It feels unreal, and the statistics are shocking. Here in the first weeks of September hundreds of wildfires have burned more than two million acres in California, and there are two more months of our usual fire season to go.
But not only do we have lots of fires, we have fewer people to fight them. Cal Fire uses paid volunteers from the prisons to help on wildfires, but this year, the kind of prisoners that normally would be trained and allowed to work the fire line has been given an early release due to Covid-19 concerns.
Plus, Covid-19 has struck some of our fire fighters. It’s reported that the pandemic has closed some fire camps, further reducing fire control efforts.
If farms and ranches close to wildlands are particularly vulnerable this year, then so are the suburban areas that have grown beyond city limits.
Just look at the Creek Fire; it seems to be dropping out of the mountains into the Central Valley and is approaching productive farmland as well as the homes and small ranches on the east side of the valley.
So it behooves all of us who live on the border of town and country to be fire-aware and fire-safe. Think about a fire plan – not just prevention, but active fire control – and take another check for dry growth and fire-fuel that can be cleared. We can’t be too ready or too safe.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.