Monday, May 20, 2013
it's fire season again
In an annual rite, people across the Oakland hills are clearing away underbrush, cutting the grass, and trimming tree branches in preparation for fire season. It's something that's never too far from people's minds in the hills, at least since the 1991 firestorm.
According to the Tribune, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said, "Already this year we've responded to a 50 percent increasing in wildland fires than last year." Eep. We didn't have an especially rainy year, but we did have some rain late. That means more growth, and more hazards.
One of the lessons of the 1991 firestorm was that eucalyptus trees are particularly hazardous. Not only are the trees not native to the Bay Area, people actively planted them. Joaquin Miller planted pines, cypress, acacia, and eucalyptus in what is now the park bearing his name. Developer Frank Havens imported millions of seedlings from Australia. He started the Mahogany Eucalyptus and Land Company, thinking that eucalyptus would be a good source of lumber for railroad ties. They weren't—they grow too fast and twist, and split and warp when dried. Further, the eucalyptus trees have a high oil content, and tend to drop lots of dry, very flammable leaf litter. There were various factors that led to the 1991 firestorm being so horrific, but eucalyptus trees were a significant part of it.
Today we got a reminder. A small fire broke out in Joaquin Miller Park overnight. Once they located it, the fire department made short work of it and had it under control by 4:30am. Then this afternoon a fire in Orinda meant a circling helicopter east of Oakland, an ominous sound to hear in the hills. So lets be careful out there, and be fire safe.