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Fire personnel stress importance of defensible space as wildfires continue

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Posted at 10:46 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 02:52:46-04

Fire crews were busy this weekend: from several smaller spot fires, to the Pond Fire near Creston that grew to more than 2,000 acres in size.

"Our main concern is firefighter safety," Cal Fire Public Information Officer Daniel Solias said. "We know that temperatures are elevated right now, so there's a risk of our firefighters' health and we want to make sure we're staying hydrated."

Fire and crews use everything in their arsenal, both on the ground and in the air to combat these fast-moving fires.

"Crews [at the Pond Fire] right now are actively looking for hotspots and extending containment lines to make sure that nothing is going to get outside of the lines and using hand crews and bulldozers," Solias said.

During high fire season, Cal Fire frequently talks about maintaining defensible space around your home. But for Santa Margarita Ranch Manager Jeff McKee, that would mean 13,000 acres.

"We try to graze in a matter that makes it not nerve-wracking," Mckee said. "We try to find our biggest risks and mitigate them first."

The ranch uses cattle to help maintain defensible space, but not all of it can be mowed or chewed down at once.

"This is our feed for the whole year so we can't graze it all off at once; we have to save it until we get grass growing again," McKee said. "It's my job to graze to the places that are most likely to burn, save some grass so the cattle can make it to the next green season and hopefully mitigate a lot of fire danger."

The expansive property backs up to the Cuesta Grade, which can be problematic at times with cars dragging chains or other fire hazards.

"Most fires here since I've been here have started on the 101 and burned up over this ridge and come down towards the town of Santa Margarita," McKee said. "Early in the season when the grasses just start to harden and there's still a lot of moisture in them, we try to push the cows up on that grade and graze it off to reduce the fuel load in that area."

The ranch has several locations with fire extinguishers and their own water truck and bulldozers in case a fire does break out on the property.

It's recommended to have at least 100 feet of defensible space around your home to not only protect your home from catching fire, but also for protecting the firefighters defending your home.

Click here for more wildfire preparedness tips.