Our View: Help prevent wildfires this summer

May 11, 2007 12:00 am

Don't let the last couple of days of rain lull you into a false sense of security: The chance for wildfires this year in Del Norte County and surrounding forested areas remains high. Indeed, because of a dry winter and spring, there's a good chance for a wildfire the likes of which the area hasn't seen since the late 1980s, says Jim Smith, Cal Fire battalion chief for the the Humboldt-Del Norte Unit.

Being forewarned of the potential danger is half the battle in preventing wildfires from ever posing a threat. The other half is taking preventative measures – something all of us ought to do, especially if we live in wooded areas.

Cal Fire, formerly known as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, recommends several steps you can take to prevent blazes and to protect our homes and businesses:

•Don't mow dry vegetation during hot, dry weather. This only creates tinder for fires to start and spread. In addition, sparks from weed trimmers and mowers can ignite a fire.

•Clear vegetation within 30 feet of homes and businesses. From 31 to 100 feet, reduce the amount of vegetation. Should a fire occur, this will help reduce its ability to reach your building.

•Be aware of potential fire dangers and report them. The earlier a fire is extinguished or contained, the less damage it can do. It's our civic responsibility to report fires.

•Always be prepared to evacuate your home. Wildfires and the wind that spreads them can turn at any moment, and there may not be time to pack.

You can learn more about preventing forest fires – or help your children learn in a fun setting – during Saturday's Wildlife Awareness Week program at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds. The program runs 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast with Smokey Bear, fire engines on display, a Cal Fire helicopter and smokejumpers.

As Smokey himself said, "Only you can prevent forest fires."