From the August 2014 Battle Mountain News

Post date: Jul 24, 2014 8:16:15 PM

Once Again: One Less Spark – One Less Wildfire

With our third summer of drought breaking records, and 90% of wildfires in California caused by humans, this is a good time to revisit One Less Spark – One Less Wildfire. Today I'd like to highlight the two leading ways we generate dangerous sparks - equipment usage and vehicles.

The drought stress has pushed some of our diseased oaks and tanoaks over the edge, so I was out taking advantage of one of our recent cool foggy mornings to fell some newly dead trees. I was amazed to see that just the heat of cutting one of the stumps generated enough heat to throw sparks. Needless to say, I stopped work immediately. If you must use a chain saw, please do it before 10am and have water and a shovel at hand.

Now dry grass is a fast, flashy fuel and stands out as an exception to the rule of thumb that flame lengths are generally 1½ times vegetation height; grass fires in 3' high grass can generate flames 20' to 40' on a windy day. That's why it's critical to keep it less than 4” within 30' of your home and less than 12” from 30' to 100' out. Since mid-May, I've discovered just which of our grasses continue to grow without rain, and was out cutting them recently. If you follow suit, please use only a string cutter. Metal blades and rocks are a recipe for disaster. Be sure your tools have clean spark arresters in good working order. Be careful, too, where you set your power tools down; the metal parts can get hot enough to ignite dry grass.

Similarly parking your vehicle atop dry grass is equally dangerous. The Trabing fire was started by a piece of carbon from a hot exhaust pipe; please be sure you're engine is in tune and not fouling your catalytic convertor. Be aware of dangling safety chains on trailers, loose dragging mufflers and other metal bits from the undercarriage which can shoot sparks as they hit the the road. If you have flat stop immediately and change the tire. Driving on a rim will not only shake your fillings free, but sparks from the pavement as well.

For more hints, see:

We Need Help in the San Vicente Timberlands This Summer

If this looks familiar, it should, since I first brought this up in June. There are some updates and we are now ready to roll that flagging tape.

We are seeking people with experience/interest in birding, native plants, wetland biology, and wildland fire to volunteer to help us begin our two year project to build 9.5 miles of fuel break along the Warrenella road bisecting the recently re-named San Vicente timberlands between Empire Grade and the coastal prairie above Davenport.

Our botanical and archeological surveys are now complete. We have a prescription and a detailed treatment plan. Before fall, when vegetation management work per se begins, we need to establish boundaries, mark areas for special treatment or exclusion, and lay out a mosaic of the incredibly rich biological diversity within the treatment area for retention. This is a rare opportunity to see this fascinating landscape before any of it is opened to the public; moreover, some of the fuel break lies in restoration and conservation areas which will not be opened for public use.

Please contact us if you are interested. We'll flag in teams of two and, of course, your first trip out will include training and orientation.