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Our View

Fires are our new norm

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California is on fire.

While the fires have dominated national news, we don’t need TV newscasters or the Wall Street Journal telling us that Northern California is ablaze.

All we have to do is walk outside and see the uncharacteristically smoky, thick haze in Placer County. Or look at the ash deposits on our cars and porches.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Sunday that federal disaster assistance is available to supplement California’s, tribal and local recovery efforts affected by wildfires and highs winds, effective going back to July 23.

California has been under attack by 18 large wildfires the last two weeks.

The rampant California fires, by Tuesday morning, had killed seven people, burned more than 619,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 structures. About 45,000 residents throughout the states were evacuated as 17,000 homes remained threatened by these fires, as of Sunday.

New Zealand firefighters arrived Monday to help the thousands of exhausted Californian firefighters.

The Carr Fire, which started with a vehicle’s mechanical failure about 220 miles from Placer County, first shocked us with how fast fire can spread. It then hit home the reality of how random and deadly fires can turn in seconds.

Seven people lost their lives in the Carr Fire by being in the flames’ unpredictable path, as of Tuesday.

We were saddened to hear that a great-grandmother, 70 and her two great-grandchildren, ages 4 and 5, perished while waiting for their family to rescue them from their burning property. The children’s cries for help, as recounted by their great-grandfather on the nightly news, were heart-wrenching.

The deadly Carr Fire in Shasta County started July 23. On Wednesday, the Carr Fire was only 47 percent contained on 173,522 acres. Destroyed were 1,077 residences, 22 commercial structures and 500 outbuildings. Damaged were 191 residences, 26 commercial structures and 65 outbuildings.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) spokeswoman Mary Eldridge, in a Gold Country Media story July 27, said that fire season now extends year-round and that California’s fires are now bigger and more intense. In that same story, Rocklin/Lincoln Fire Department Chief Bill Hack shared similar sentiments. Placer County residents should be concerned that a large fire could start here, according to Hack, Placer County Fire Unit Chief George Morris and Eldridge.

On Aug. 1, the “Sunset Fire” on the south end of Brewer Road, adjacent to Sunset Boulevard and Catlett Road in Roseville and Pleasant Grove, burned almost 800 acres. Firefighters put out the fire within five hours with no injuries or building damage.

 

Placer County was lucky this time.

Last week, our newspaper had a Fire and Water 2018 insert with preventative safety measures for our homes and businesses.

Make sure there is at least 100 feet of defensible space around each home. This includes removing dead brush, weeds and low-hanging branches.

Consider landscaping with fire- and drought-resistant flowers and trees such as sage, redbud, ornamental garlic, lavender and lilac.

Is your go-bag ready? Sometimes there are only minutes to evacuate. In that bag, include water, prescriptions, change of clothes, extra pair of eyeglasses, spare car keys, credit cards, cash, first-aid kit and copies of important documents. If you have pet, pack a bag for them too

 

It’s not too late to make our homes and businesses fireproof. In fact, our lives depend on it.

 

While we can’t predict whether Placer County will experience a destructive fire this season, we can take steps to reduce our fire risk. That’s the least we can learn from the Carr Fire and all other fires burning as we remember the sacrifices made by the thousands of firefighters on the frontlines.

Fireproofing our living and working spaces makes everyone safer, from our families and neighbors to the firefighters who put their lives on the line every time they battle our fires.