Getting Portola FireWise

Dave Rudolph, a longtime Portola local, has been a part of ongoing efforts to get the city of Portola prepared for the summer fire season and become FireWise. With the next FireWise meeting tomorrow, June 20, at 6 p.m., at the Portola Library, Rudolph had some thoughts to share ahead of time.

“I would like to say something about the upcoming fire season for us that live east of the Sierra crest in what is known as Eastside Pine for its environment,” Rudolph said. “This habitat is mostly populated by conifer trees, Jeffrey and Ponderosa pines, white, red and Douglas firs, and incense cedar. Some deciduous trees of note are cottonwood, black oak, and aspen. Brush species are sage, bitterbrush, service berry, buckbrush, bitter cherry and ceonothus.”

Rudolph explained that prior to European immigration, the natural fire regime was a 10- to 15-year fire return interval. This natural regime drastically reduced the brush and baby trees and left large diameter trees every 15 to 30 feet for a “park-like” setting.

“These fires would have been lightning ignited and burned with a fairly low intensity because of the rain associated with thunderstorms and because the fire regime had been removing available fuels for a very long time. That’s a quick review of what was,” Rudolph continued.

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Today there is brush and baby trees everywhere and an available fuel situation that makes it increasingly difficult for firefighters to safely and successfully defend each home from an approaching wild land fire.

This is especially the case this year due to the heavy rains experienced in the area, which gave way to tall, green grass, which will soon become dead and dry, adding to the available fuel for fire. According to Rudolph, fire behavior will be increased by the dry grasses and other available fuels around area homes.

“A meaningful solution would include having FireWise clearances around your home, having a home built of fire-resistant materials, and having an evacuation plan to help escape an approaching wild fire,” Rudolph stated.

“Start at the house and clean up the Home Ignition Zone, which is 30 feet. This cleanup would include all flammable debris from the roof, gutters, porches and decks. If you have brush that is close enough for flames to spread from one to the other, remove the brush. If you have baby pine trees forming a hedge anywhere on your ground, thin them out, pick the best ones and thin them out to between 15 and 30 feet apart. Pick up needles, leaves, cones around your place.”

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Rudolph strongly encourages all to complete their clearance and fully prepare for the possibility of a wildfire.

“Talk to your neighbors,” Rudolph said. “Remember Neighborhood Watch for criminals. The threat from wildfire is more widespread and devastating than burglary. We hope to be able to get all residents of our area to be FireWise!”

For more information, visit readyforwildfire.org and get all current information and resources available. All are invited to attend and participate at Portola FireWise meetings, which are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Portola Library at 6 p.m.