Red Flag Warning extended through Thursday

May 1, 2013 6:48:05 PM PDT
A Red Flag Warning for high fire danger in the East Bay Hills has been extended through Thursday and nowhere is concern greater that in the Berkeley Hills. Fire officials are dissuading residents from doing things like barbecuing and using gardening tools that could spark a fire, but making sure everyone gets that message is easier said than done.

Moraga and Orinda residents are required by law to clear vegetation from around their homes. For one homeowner Wednesday, a gardening service did the work, clearing weeds from underneath power lines right next to a house. When they started, they were three feet high. "It's so hot and the weeds are so dry and up there, the sun's just beaming down," said Mike Davis with Contra Costa Tree and Landscaping.

But Moraga-Orinda Division Fire Chief Stephen Healy says a Red Flag Warning day is not the day to do this work, which could start the very fire they want to prevent. "We've had occasion in the past where people are out mowing late in the afternoon, maybe a lawnmower hits a rock and then that starts a fire," he explained.

Davis says he looks for rocks ahead of time. He knows it's a Red Flag day and the hazards his equipment bring. "We were doing a lot in Antioch and Oakley, and this was like a 10-acre lot, but we had a tractor, and we started a fire," he recalled. "It closed down both sides of the freeway before the Antioch Bridge."

Healey monitors the hot, dry Diablo winds gusting from the northeast through the Highway 24 corridor and he keeps an eye on the humidity. "Fuel, weather, and topography are the three main factors, weather being the most dominant of the three.

In Brentwood, a shuttered fire station re-opened Wednesday just in the nick of time for the beginning of what could be a long fire season. "Back in July, we had to close the station due to budget cuts. We received a local grant and we were able to hire back some of our laid off firefighters and we hired ten new firefighters," Brentwood Fire Capt. Craig Auzenne said.

Click here for CAL FIRE's information on defensible space standards.


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