The Cambrian

Fire Focus Group ready as fire season begins

A Memorial Day forest walk on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve shows dead and diseased trees marked for removal.
A Memorial Day forest walk on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve shows dead and diseased trees marked for removal. Special to The Cambrian

Area fire officials have kept a close watch on some recent early-season blazes, including a couple of large ones in the Camp Roberts and Salinas areas.

Fire season’s here, ready or not.

Firefighters from Cambria Fire Department and Cal Fire have begun inspecting the town’s vacant lots and developed properties (respectively), informing the owners about what must be done, by when, to help prevent the spread of fire, if one should start.

Meanwhile, utility foresters and tree inspectors from Davey Resource Group, the forestry contractor for PG&E, have been circling back into neighborhoods hit hard by falling trees and prolonged power outages during the winter storms.

Especially in those areas, they’re reinspecting in more detail than usual near power lines, looking for hazardous trees that should be removed or trimmed, they say, to protect people, structures, vehicles and electrical service.

Focus Group

The Cambria Fire Safe Focus Group also is back in full fire-prevention mode, after having split its goals late last fall to include wintertime concerns of falling trees, power outages, El Niño, storms and flood dangers.

While some Focus Group participants are shepherding $750,000 in grants for forestry work in Cambria or working toward a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan for the town, others are concentrating on different areas of fire-prevention concern.

Fireworks

The Focus Group has asked Supervisor Bruce Gibson to seek formal county declaration of Cambria Fire Prevention Month in July, a time when everybody hopes residents will band together in neighborhoods to plan ahead for emergencies and evacuations.

Group attendees decided at their May 25 meeting to host a fire prevention booth at Cambria’s July 4th celebration, with the spotlight on the timely concern about fireworks safety.

“There will be no safe and sane — or unsafe and insane — fireworks allowed here,” said group Chairwoman Shirley Bianchi, quoting the booth’s new slogan.

So-called “personal fireworks” of any kind are forbidden on the North Coast. Firefighters and law enforcers say they will increase their staffing and patrols through the holiday period to make sure none of the incendiary devices are used here. Fines for violations can be stiff, up to $2,000 (plus damages, if any), because fireworks are noted for starting fires, especially in a vulnerable forest of aging Monterey pines and other trees, and with extra-tall grasses and weeds that are drying fast this year, despite May Gray and June Gloom weather.

Firefighters estimate that 60 percent of trees in the forest are dead or dying from the effects from advanced age, drought, beetle attacks and other factors. A Monterey pine’s normal lifespan is about a century, most foresters estimate.

Other actions

Focus Group members also hope Caltrans will trim roadside weeds along Highway 1 early this year, and county crews will do the same along streets they maintain. Most wildfires are caused by humans, and many of fires begin along roadways.

The Focus Group also is completing paperwork and actions required to have Cambria declared a “Firewise Community.”

Fire-safety officials say that designation could make it easier to get fire-prevention grant funds, and it could increase the likelihood that fire insurance companies would continue to issue policies in this area.

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