Dry conditions the last few months – after an early wet winter –have combined for plenty of fuel and a heightened likelihood of an early, active fire season in the Central Valley.
Already, a strike team has been dispatched from San Joaquin County to aid in fires elsewhere, and the Escalon Fire Department had its first of the season vegetation fires in the past week.
Crews twice were dispatched to the area of South Lawrence Road, Saturday and Sunday, for a vegetation fire that consumed a few acres. Farmington Fire Department was called in for mutual aid in both instances.
“There was a total of about four aces involved there,” explained Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello. “We have already been a little bit busier than usual for the early part of May.”
Couple the fire conditions with the still-cold and high-running river water on the Stanislaus and Mello said it could be a very busy season for firefighters.
The chief also said notices have gone out to residents in the rural areas that need to do some weed abatement around their property.
“Twenty parcels as of April 30 in the rural area are in weed abatement, the owners have been noticed for the first time to take care of it,” Mello explained. “It’s always our goal to have everything taken care of by the Fourth of July, but it is in the owners’ best interests and ours to get it done as soon as possible.”
Mello admitted that the hot weather of the past week “kind of snuck up on everybody” but now is the time to prepare.
“If they do have weeds to take care of, it’s best to do it in the morning when temperatures are down and the fuel moisture is high,” Mello said. “And even if they’re not in weed abatement, they should keep the defensible space around their home.”
Meanwhile, the department is in the midst of budget preparation, with the fire board meeting Thursday night to review the preliminary budget. The meeting will be at the Coley Avenue fire station at 7 p.m.
Final budget adoption for the department is anticipated in July.