The Red Flag alert will remain in effect in Marin County until 9 a.m. Saturday, but it may be extended beyond that because of the continuing hot weather over the weekend. It's a problem not only in Marin County, but in other counties where there are dense wooded areas near homes.
Firefighters extinguished a grass fire early Friday afternoon after it burned about a quarter of an acre in a wooded area near Hamilton Field in Novato. It was fueled by the hot weather and a persistent breeze. All this happened in the midst of the Red Flag Alert signaling high fire danger in Marin County.
"We've had light rainfall this winter, so the fuels are unusually dry for this time of the year," Marin County Fire Marshal Scott Alber. In the Novato fire, the dry vegetation stood six feet tall in heavy brush. Firefighters say that's unusually high for this time of year.
"It's high. It's very brittle. And as you look at the ground, the ground is already dried out. So, if we get a fire, it's going to run very quickly," Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker says. Baker has the same concerns for the Oakland Hills. Like many parts of Marin, the homes are in a tinderbox. Even hired goats can't get all of the vegetation.
There are dry combustible pine needles everywhere, trees hanging too close to roofs, and not enough defensible zones around homes. "Go out 10 feet from your house raking up aby dead leaves, pine needles, dead branches, from adjacent shrubbery," Alber suggests. And some safety tips for this weekend? "Don't barbeque. Don't have open flame in the outdoors. Be safe."
Coincidentally, the Novato Fire Department held a training session for seasonal firefighters, the ones who help battle wildfires in the summer. They decided to cancel a live fire training session because of the hot weather.