Fire risk prompts burn bans across Bay Area

Fire season is still months off, but CAL FIRE is staffing up because of a growing risk of wildfires across the Bay Area.
December 30, 2013 5:34:17 PM PST
Fire season is still months off, but CAL FIRE is staffing up because of a growing risk of wildfires in the Bay Area. The lack of rainfall and low humidity are creating a fire danger that normally starts around May, so a burn ban is now in effect for yard waste and vegetation.

It becomes evident when looking up at the hills. What's normally green this time of year is brown -- a reflection of the bone dry conditions. The potential for fires has prompted CAL FIRE to issue a burn ban for much of the Bay Area including the East Bay, South Bay, and Peninsula.

The summit fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains in May of 2008 is a prime example of what can happen. It was started by a so-called "escape fire." Someone was burning vegetation that had been cleared to create a fire break around vulnerable structures. Instead, the fire spread and burned almost 4,300 acres. It took firefighters five days to contain it.

"Sometimes they don't do enough clearance. Other times, we've been to fires that they've had adequate clearance, but the winds have come up and have pushed the embers beyond their 10-foot control line around it," explained CAL FIRE Division Chief Rob Sherman. "Things do happen and we've had some major fires that have been caused throughout the state because of burning."

There have been 31 brush fires in the past two months in the CAL FIRE ranger unit that encompasses San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. "It impacts the environment, the watershed, the people that use that watershed and drink the water in these areas," Sherman said.

The burn ban will also address air quality concerns. The Bay Area got a 1-day reprieve on wood burning, but another Spare the Air Day has been declared for Tuesday.

Not everyone complies. "I have been burning. I do everything by the law, but that's one thing I just don't tolerate. I burn when I want to," Will Wood told ABC7 News.


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