Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Wild About Wildfire

Nothing gets your attention quite like an inferno eating through the woods barely half a mile from your house. Last week, a wildfire took off into a neighborhood just down the road, turning oaks and cedars into giant torches. Residents stood in their yards, water hoses in hand and stark worry in their eyes, as flames crackled through the drought-stricken trees.

Fortunately, there was little wind (for a change), and firefighters were able to tamp down the wildfire before houses were lost. But somewhere between five and ten acres of woods were lost, in some cases burning right up to doorsteps. Trees—even roadside power poles—were left charred.

Ironically, a brisk wind might have driven the wildfire along at a faster pace, leaving many of the tree trunks less damaged. But houses would have been lost, and the fire would have spread over a greater area.

In the aftermath, I took a hard look at our own trees. Previous owners had been wise enough to trim the lower branches up a good six to eight feet, making it more difficult for a grass fire to take hold in the tree crowns. During our ongoing drought-abetted heat wave, we make a point of keeping the grass clipped short to provide less fire fuel. And most of our trees are set well away from the house.

That's the best we can do. That...and hope for fall rains this year.

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