SAN RAMON (KPIX) — The first weekend in May marks the beginning of a statewide Wildfire Awareness Week — a reminder that fire season isn’t what is used to be in the Golden State.
The San Ramon Valley wasn’t officially in a red flag warning but just the way things felt made firefighters decide to carry their gear on Sunday.READ MORE: 'The Long Good-Bye'; New Hope In The Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease
“You go back a few years, we would still be getting rain right now,” said Todd Word, San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District battalion chief. “If that was the case we probably wouldn’t be carrying our wildland gear.”
On the ridge line west of I-680, homeowners are accustomed to windy afternoons. Even 3 mph breezes can quickly jump to a 14 mph gust — it’s what makes areas like this as vulnerable to fire as Sonoma County or the Sierra foothills.
“You look around and our community is encased with wildland so that’s a hazard and that’s what makes weed-abatement really important in our district.” Word said.
That was happening on a nearby field on Sunday, where the landowner had hired a contractor to clear a 40-foot perimiter to slow a grass fire down and potentially save the home of a neighbor or two.
Kate Dargan, a former state fire marshal and current co-chair of the California Fire Safe Council sees it as part of a holistic approach to fire prevention.READ MORE: Returning Thanksgiving Travelers Encounter Few Delays At Local Airports
“The concept that’s really starting to emerge is: this isn’t just one house’s individual actions. Communities need to come together. We need community strategy because it’s all the houses on the block, it’s entire communities,” Dargan said.
As part of that approach, the state has created wildfire preparedness trailers filled with educational materials and brush-clearing tools to help communities hold volunteer fire prevention events. And, with the state already in the grips of a serious drought, the prospect for this year’s fire season clearly has officials worried.
“We had such a horrendous year last year,” Dargan said, “and now here it is May 2 and the winds are already kicking up. We’re clearly seeing the drying patterns and all the portents are for another difficult year for wildfires.”
That’s why fire-prevention efforts now may be the only thing standing in the way of another disaster.
“We’re not going to stop the fires,” Dargan said. “We’re not going to stop the wind, necessarily, but we can make communities more survivable.”
A list of wildfire tips from the California Fire Safe Council is available at this website:MORE NEWS: Bay Area Motorists Suffering From Gas Pump Sticker Shock As Prices Continue To Soar