Red Flag warnings in effect as dry winter continues

12:59 AM, Jan 16, 2014   |    comments
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POLLOCK PINES, Calif.  - Cal Fire crews keep answering calls for fires at up to 4,000 feet as a Red Flag warning continues in effect for the upper Sierra until Friday morning

"We've been having fires every day - one, two, up to three fires a day," said Chris Anthony with Cal Fire's operations center in Camino. "We're seeing drier conditions than I think we ever have."

Jean Pesce is almost certain she saw exactly what set the forest next to her house on fire just off Sly Park Road Wednesday afternoon.

"I saw one spark in a pile that had been burned," she said.

Pesce said the fire appeared to start from a brush pile workers set in front of her next door neighbor's house.

"At this point, I'm very, very careful. Very leery," she explained.

Many in the upper foothills and Sierra fear a repeat of the devastating Angora Fire that burned more than 200 homes on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe in June of 2007.

"If you have a high wind event that comes through an area, certainly you can get large fire growth as a result of that, just like we did at the Angora Fire," Anthony said.

Even heavier fuels are dry enough to burn in the high country, according to Anthony.

"I would just encourage people to be careful with fire just like they are during the summer months because the fuels are just as receptive as they are during the summer months," Anthony urged.

He offered a simple rule until winter weather arrives: "If there's not snow on the ground, it's dry. And if it's dry it's likely to burn if there's some type of ignition source to get it started."

Cal Fire is keeping staffing levels up to match the threat, which is costly but considered necessary.

Anthony said homeowners and folks enjoying the outdoors need to be on constant alert to avoid starting a fire.

"Whether it's using a barbeque, or doing a debris burn, or a campfire, or using equipment around your house when you're clearing your defensible space," Anthony said.

For Pesce, there's no substitute for only burning on legal burn days and keeping a close watch on every fire.

"It's the only way you can be if you're gonna survive up here," she said.


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