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Fire Season Slows, But Not Over Yet
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Despite the dry winter and recent hot weather, this fire season hasn’t been a particularly tough one for Escalon and the surrounding area. There have only been a handful of calls, said Fire Chief Rick Mello, much slower than officials anticipated.

“We are supposed to have cooling temperatures with a chance of rain on the coast and in the Sierras later this week,” noted Mello. “But until we see sustained rainfall, it (fire season) won’t really stop.”

Just a few years ago, Escalon and surrounding area fire departments like Farmington and Collegeville would typically send out ‘strike teams’ to assist with wildfires in other parts of the state. While they might now occasionally send one, Mello said that practice has really been scaled back. In some cases, Escalon sends one member or two to join a strike team, but that’s not the norm anymore.

“We typically don’t,” Mello agreed. “We have cut back, some of the other local departments, too, we just don’t have the personnel to send them to other areas.”

Escalon did send Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro to serve on a strike team that went to Northern California in mid-August but it was a relatively short-lived assignment.

Still, Mello said residents shouldn’t be lackadaisical in keeping track of weeds and brush on their property.

“As it stays dry and with the water situation we’re in, if people took care of weeds in April, chances are they’re back,” he said. “We’re asking people to keep the weeds down, be vigilant.

“Don’t go into fall with green weeds, because you will have dry weeds next spring and summer.”

Any overgrowth should be addressed now, keeping a defensible space in front of homes and businesses. Summer may officially be coming to an end but Mello said the traditional rules still apply; make sure to mow early in the day before the heat sets in.

October, which is just around the corner, is observed as Fire Prevention Month and in accordance with that, the department will be making several stops at local schools to highlight fire prevention. They also will offer their smoke detector program, with free batteries and installation of the batteries offered to residents to make sure their smoke detectors are working properly and have the fresh batteries for the fall and winter seasons.

More information about the free battery program is available by contacting Pinheiro at the fire department at 838-7500.

“On October 7, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will be doing a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week, a number of chiefs from the county, including myself, will be in attendance at that meeting,” Mello said.

As far as whether there are any major fires still to come this season? That all depends on the weather, said the chief.

“The projected end of the fire season, at this point, really depends on what the rains do.”