Cal Fire gears up for fall fire season

Cal Fire is increasing its staffing statewide, as strong winds and dry weather have prompted red flag warnings and possible power shutoffs across California.
“We have increased our staffing, but need the public to remain vigilant,” said Cal Fire director Thom Porter in a release. “It is important to follow evacuation orders and leave early as fires move very fast under these conditions.”
The agency did not specify how many staff it plans to add, but emphasized that it is not involved in the decisions by agencies like PG&E to shut off customers’ power in order to prevent fires. Only when a fire is actively burning around power lines, Cal Fire said, does the agency request a shut-off.

Cal Fire issued several safety tips for avoiding and dealing with fires, including:

—Don’t mow or trim dry grass on windy days.
—Never drive or park a vehicle in dry grass.
—Target shoot only in approved areas, use lead ammunition only, and never shoot at metal targets or other metal objects.
—Check and obey burn bans.
—Ensure campfires are allowed, and if so, be sure to extinguish them completely.
—Report any suspicious activities to prevent arson. If you see something, say something.
Briceburg Fire closes Yosemite’s Highway 140 entrance

A fire of unknown origin that started Sunday, Oct. 6, at approximately 4:15 p.m. is burning along Highway 140 and Briceburg Bridge Road north of Midpines in Mariposa County. Highway 140 provides access to Yosemite National Park; the fire is burning about 20 miles from the park boundary.
Yosemite National Park is open via Highways 41 and 120 when coming from the west.
As of Thursday, Oct. 10, the fire had burned 5,000 acres, caused multiple evacuations, and was 25 percent contained.
According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, smoke from the Briceburg Fire and blowing dust from forecasted gusty winds on Wednesday, Oct. 9, are prompting Valley Air District officials to issue a health cautionary statement for the entire San Joaquin Valley. Smoke impacts are expected to continue until the fire is extinguished, while blowing dust should subside by Thursday.
Anyone being exposed to poor air quality or wildfire smoke should move indoors to an air-conditioned/filtered environment with their windows closed. Wildfire smoke and wind-blown dust can create unhealthy concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 microns and smaller) and PM10 (particulate matter 10 microns and smaller). Both pollutants can trigger asthma attacks, and exacerbate other respiratory diseases, while PM2.5 can also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
People with heart or lung disease in impacted areas should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate matter exposure. In addition, sensitive individuals, such as those with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to the health effects from these pollutants. 
Residents can use the District’s Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) to track air quality at any Valley address. The RAAN monitors are designed to detect the microscopic PM2.5 particles that exist in smoke. However, larger particles, such as ash and dust, may not be detected. If an area is covered in ash or dust, air quality should be considered “unhealthy” (RAAN Level 4 or higher) even if the monitor reflects a lower reading.
The public can check the District’s wildfire page for information about any current wildfires and whether they are impacting the Valley. Residents can also follow air quality conditions by downloading the free “Valley Air” app, available in the Apple store or Google Play.
For more information, go online or call the District office in Fresno (559-230-6000).
Red Flag Warning
There is a Red Flag Warning for most of California through Friday, Oct. 11, due to gusty winds and low humidity. Although fire danger is high in Three Rivers and the surrounding foothills, the area is not under the Red Flag Warning because it is not being affected by the easterly winds that is plaguing much of the state.

In an attempt to avoid sparking a wildfire, California’s largest utility intentionally cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers Wednesday, mostly in the Bay Area, and power isn’t likely to be restored for days, the company said. Three Rivers will not be affected by this outage.

PG&E has come under criticism in recent years for the role of its equipment in a series of catastrophic wildfires across the state, including the deadly 2018 Camp Fire that obliterated Paradise, Calif., and was the deadliest fire in state history (86 people died). The utility has agreed to pay billions of dollars in damages.
The company warned in February it could proactively cut power more often and to more customers during risky weather conditions as a means of preventing wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment.
The plan, critics say, lets PG&E get away with inconveniencing its customers and costing businesses instead of upgrading its infrastructure to prevent fires.

 

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