YUBA COUNTY WATERSHED PROTECTION & FIRE SAFE COUNCIL

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Dry Fire


BLM Grant for Fuel Reduction was One of the Keys to Stopping the “Dry Fire”

The Yuba Watershed Protection & Fire Safe Council is targeting fuels reduction along roads as a focus for fire season planning in the Yuba County foothills.  The Council’s partnership with the Yuba County Public Works Department has resulted in the treatment and maintenance of fuels along over 40 miles of road to reduce the threat from vehicle fires spreading to the wildlands.  For an important element of this program, the Bureau of Land Management provided funding through the California State Fire Safe Council Clearinghouse for fuels reduction along a six mile portion of Marysville Road. 

 During the early evening hours of July 31, 2009, a truck traveling on Marysville Road started at least 5 small road-side grass fires along the cleared section of the project.  The reduction of fuels along the road slowed the intensity and spread of these fires.  Another significant factor in controlling the fires was a dozer line that CAL FIRE constructs annually in a wildlife refuge uphill from where the fires started.  The fuels reduction initially caused the fires to burn with a lower intensity than would have otherwise occurred. Because air tanker operations must be suspended shortly after sunset, the higher intensity fires that could have occurred would likely have not seen significant containment by that time.

Map of Dry Fire (PDF)

 Strong initial ground attack by the Dobbins/Oregon House and Foothill Fire Departments along with CAL FIRE began the establishment of strategically located fire lines. Immediate response from CAL FIRE air resources then reinforced these fire lines allowing ground forces to rapidly contain all the fires. CAL FIRE fire modeling estimated that without the prevention work the flame length could have exceeded 20 feet (too extreme for direct attack by ground units at the head of the fire) and the fire would have reached the top of Stanfield Hill in about a half hour.  Homes would have been critically threatened and very likely destroyed.  There was also a significant potential for spotting.  This fire would probably have exceeded the capability of the initial attack, requiring significant resource augmentation.  It is highly probable that this fire would have grown to at least one hundred acres, destroying several homes. This is the third documented instance in which a vehicle-caused fire did not become catastrophic because of roadside fuels reduction projects in the Yuba County foothills.

Fuel reduced along the Yuba County’s Marysville Road slows the rate of spread of the Dry Fire

 Roadside fuels reduction also provides other very important strategic benefits. During a fire improvement in both the evacuation corridors and in access for fire fighters and equipment is a valuable collateral benefit.  Also roadway bare surfaces, along with the continuing commitment of the Yuba County Public Works Department in maintaining fuels reduction along treated roads, greatly enhances their value as fuel breaks during limited intensity fires.   

 For more information contact Yuba Watershed Protection & Fire Safe Council Facilitator, Glenn Nader at ganader@ucdavis.edu

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The Firesafe Council meets on the second Wednesday of every month at the Alcouffe Community Center in Dobbins-Oregon House from 9:30AM - 12 PM.