Hundreds of Canadian wildfires left much of America’s east coast shrouded in smoke last week. As fire fighters continue to monitor the damage in Quebec, growers in California should take the opportunity to review their own fire safety protocols and evacuation plans. After all, California currently averages 2,226 wildfires per year, and recent bursts of wet weather — including a 145% statewide average of rain across the entire state — could increase the chance of another active wildfire season.
“As you go up and down the freeways, you’ll see that vegetation that is normally not this large is thick and tall,” says Chris Bruno, Fire Captain at California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. All of that greenery may look pretty, but Bruno warns it could turn out to be dangerous. As summertime temperatures continue to climb and plants grow increasingly dry, tall vegetation runs the risk of becoming fuel for future fires.
Typically, California’s fire season reaches its peak between July and November, when temperatures are hot and dry winds are frequent. For growers and producers, those fires are particularly dangerous. Not only can they destroy property, crops, and livestock, but they can leave fields covered in ash, which complicates the harvesting process long after the fire itself has been extinguished.
How can growers protect their property while still remaining productive? For starters, monitor potential risks like flammable hay and livestock bedding, fenced-in areas where many animals are contained, and wooden farm structures nestled closely together. Exercise extreme caution whenever you practice open burning for crop management and trash removal. Remove dead vegetation from your property. Perhaps most importantly, monitor your local weather forecasts and be on the lookout for “fire weather”: a combination of low humidity, low rain, high temperatures, and high winds.
If a wildfire has begun to spread and your local fire officials recommend evacuating, leave home as soon as possible. Local officials will determine the recommended routes for your evacuation. If time allows, shut off your gas supply and close the supply valves of any large propane tanks before leaving your growing operation. Close the doors and windows of all buildings to prevent embers from wafting inside, and push furniture, window treatments, and other flammable decor toward the middle of the room, away from your windows. Turn off the AC to prevent outside smoke from coming inside and damaging the interior of your buildings, remove loose debris from your gutters, and leave your hoses connected. Don’t turn your sprinklers on, though, as this can negatively affect water pressure.
Peak fire season is still a month away, so use that time to prepare, prevent, and protect! For more information, contact your local county for fire-prevention tips.