High temperatures spark fire concerns in the Bay Area

After a winter with little rain, North Bay firefighters are worried that the above average temps are sapping what little moisture is left.
April 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
When the weather gets this warm and those dry winds begin to blow, it elevates the fire danger in the Bay Area. And we already know we're in for a long fire season this year.

The views in the Oakland Hills are great. It's just one of the many reasons people choose to live there. But with the great view comes the real threat of fire danger. Homeowners know they must keep their defensible spaces clear. Dry conditions, high winds, and hot weather make it the perfect mix for fire danger.

"Right now all of our clients that have fuel breaks that need maintenance are kind of in panic mode," said Dan Brubaker with Shelterbelt Builders Inc.

And they're worried for good reason. Brubaker is a professional landscaper. He says current weather conditions have created the perfect storm for fire danger.

"Because of the drought, there's a lot more latter fuels," he said. "The grasses are a lot more dry, the winds are a lot more strong."

In Orinda, signs read conditions as moderate, but they still require a watchful eye. Thick brush can quickly become fuel for a wildfire.

"All it takes is someone flicking a cigarette our their car window and then all these grasses can just burn right up the hill, pick up the brush, and next thing you know it's like the early 90s," Brubaker said.

Most people learned from the firestorm in 1991, to clear their property of flammable brush. The Oakland Hills fire burned uncontrollably for hours, taking with it more than 3,000 homes and claiming the lives of more than two dozen people

Cigdem Cogur, like many who live along a stretch of Snake Road in the Oakland Hills, knows she has things in common with her neighbors -- spectacular views, an idyllic location to catch a breeze off the bay, and a need to keep her home clear of debris and anything that could be a potential fire hazard.

"The dry weed, we cut all the time, once a month," she said.

Heat is on the mind of Oakland fire officials. The relative humidity isn't dictating that we're at red fire danger, but high wind is a factor. So high dry brush is being targeted for removal and fire crews are going through neighborhoods to help residents identify any hidden dangers.

"Make sure year round we have our defensible space, that we're not creating anything that could cause a fire," said Oakland Fire Department Battalion Chief Lisa Baker.

Officials say everyone needs to do their part to cut down fire danger by reducing the risk factors.


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