Grow For It! A new look at fire season

By From page B2 | January 11, 2012



Another myth up in smoke.

If you are like most foothill residents, you have probably believed that wildfire season was just that — a season — as in, generally, summer and early fall. You probably assumed that once rainy weather came and snow closed roads in the Sierra, the fire danger was over.

Not this year.

According to the Mountain Democrat, the unusual high wind event on Nov. 30, 2011 resulted in at least nine fires ranging from Omo Ranch to Diamond Springs, followed by more fires in late December in Kyburz and Georgetown.

Not only was that a wake-up call to residents that wildfires can come at any time of the year, but, hopefully, it also created an incentive to get out and do major clean-up of all the branches and pine needles that came down in the wind.

It’s true that 2011 was an odd weather year, from late rains in the spring, to a cool summer, to early rain and snow in the fall, followed by an unseasonably dry spell in December. So what are we learning from this unusual year, and how might it change our fire safe practices now and in the future?

Fuel is fuel — no matter what time of year. The good news about this extended dry weather is that it has provided lots of opportunities for clean-up of all the litter covering the landscape before it gets soaked by rains, becoming heavy and messy.

If you tend to postpone clean-up on your property until mild spring days, this year it might be time to change your routine and get busy this winter.

Care is crucial — fire officials have warned us to stay vigilant with burn piles, for good reason. Lingering embers from burn piles were responsible for some of the November fires. Yesterday, my husband noticed that a neighbor’s recent burn pile had gotten down into the duff (build-up of needles and leaves on the soil surface) and was continuing to smolder in the tree roots.

Clearance is importance — for lots of reasons. Although many hoped that pesky dead limbs would be the ones to come down in the wind, few of us had such luck. If you were one who anxiously peered out at tall trees swaying in the wind, you were probably glad if you had followed state regulations and had a landscape with adequate clearance within 100 feet of structures.

Professionals can be affordable — We recently had some large trees taken down for a price that was much more reasonable than what we expected. In addition to improving fire safety, we have reclaimed some winter sun that warms our house and brightens our winter flower beds.

So get out there and get busy. There’ll never be a better time.

Saturday, Jan. 14, Master Gardeners will present a class on the proper pruning of roses. The free three-hour class will cover the proper tools to use as well as the right time to prune and will also discuss different pruning techniques for various rose varieties. The class is held in the Veterans Memorial Building at 130 Placerville Drive in Placerville and starts at 9 a.m.

Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling 530-621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome. The office is located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville.

For more information about the public education classes and activities, go to the Master Gardener Website at Sign up to receive the online notices and e-newsletter at You can also find Master Gardener on Facebook.

Robin Stanley

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