Recent wet weather does not lower fire risk, officials said |

Recent wet weather does not lower fire risk, officials said

Nevada County firefighters extinguish a debris fire behind a residence in Grass Valley Wednesday.
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Yes, Nevada County was blessed with a small amount of rain in the last few days. But the recent onset of wet weather does not reduce fire hazard, officials warned.

Until the burn ban is lifted, anyone who violates the ordinance is at risk of a criminal citation.

“People are under the false impression that just because it rains, they can burn. They can’t,” said Terry McMahan, deputy fire marshal of Nevada County Consolidated Fire District. “The little bit of rain didn’t do much to lower the fire hazard. It raised the humidity level, but the grass is still really dry.”

On June 22, Cal Fire suspended burn permits for all outdoor residential burning of dead vegetation within the State Responsibility Area of Nevada, Yuba, Placer and Sierra counties.

In addition, officials have restricted residential burning within the city limits of Grass Valley and Nevada City.

John Hotchkiss, information officer for Cal Fire, said the burn ban is usually put in place by the department in the summer when the warmer temperatures constitute a greater risk for wildfires.

But due to the ongoing severe drought condition in California, Cal Fire issued the ban earlier this year.

Just like last year, Cal Fire has responded to more wildfires in 2015 than average, he said.

Hotchkiss said he expects the burn ban to be lifted some time in November or December, when the department determines that the fire hazard is at a safe level.

“If your burn pile gets away, you could be responsible for the cost of putting that out,” he said. “Any spark has the potential to start a fire. Not only do we tell people not to burn, we will give you a misdemeanor citation which you have to pay in front of a judge.”

After the ban is lifted, people can apply for burn permits through the local air quality management district. But Cal Fire and the California Air Resources Board, two major decision parties in terms of burn days, could also change burn day status based on the level of fire danger.

In order to reduce fire hazard, Cal Fire recommends homeowners to: clear all dead or dying vegetation around structures; landscape with fire resistant or drought tolerant plants; and find alternate ways to dispose of landscaping debris such as chipping or hauling it to a biomass energy facility. Hotchkiss also advised people to practice fire safe habits such as being cautious when camping with cooking stoves.

“Because of the drought condition in California,” Hotchkiss said, “people need to be extra cautious every time they are doing anything to produce a spark or flame.”

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, email, or call 530-477-4236

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