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Officials Warn Of Fire Danger
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July 2013 was the busiest month of the year for the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District last year, with a total of 104 calls including 18 fires. This year, with dry conditions and some high temperatures predicted within the next couple of weeks, June could take over the top spot.

Fire Chief Rick Mello said the fire season is under way in the area, and the push is on for weed abatement in areas of the community that have been identified as needing clean up.

“You hear every year that this is going to be ‘the mother of all fire seasons’ and that’s what the predictions are,” Mello said of the outlook for 2014. “It got dry really quickly this year and the county and city weed abatements are already under way.”

Mello said as of mid-May, most people with identified parcels in need of weed abatement had voluntarily complied, cutting the weeds and creating a ‘defensible space’ around their property and/or homes.

“The city identified 12 lots, and in the county, in the rural area, we identified 23,” Mello said. “Generally we do have voluntary compliance at this point. But it is a process, it takes time to go through and get them cleaned up.”

Along with preparing for a hectic fire season, Mello said the department also recently reviewed its 2013 service year, with a total of 910 calls received. Of that total, 572 were medical aid calls, along with 68 motor vehicle accidents, 100 fires and 170 miscellaneous calls.

Busiest month for calls was July with 104 and the slowest was March, with just 59 calls that month. Percentage of medial aids for the department was just under 63 percent of their calls. Busiest month for medical aids was June, with 66, while July was the busiest month for fires, with 18, and motor vehicle accidents, with 12.

The department had a run of three significant accidents, including a couple of fatalities, in about a month’s time between late July and late August.

Mello said in terms of the fire season, residents throughout the community can do their part to help by checking their property and making sure they are allowing defensible space, providing a buffer zone between their property and any vegetation.

“Abate weeds in the morning when it’s cooler,” Mello said. “Be very careful of anything that could spark a fire.”

He also said that safety should be at the top of the list when people head to the river as the temperatures heat up.

“School’s getting out so be safe in the river, it may look low but there are a lot of entrapment hazards,” said Mello.

Those planning a lazy day floating down the Stanislaus need to make sure their craft is water worthy, he added.

“Make sure it’s a device capable of making it down the river, not something you float on in the pool,” Mello said. “Also make sure that life jackets are on.”

In nearby Farmington, Fire Chief Conni Bailey said that department is also checking up on the progress of weed abatement efforts at identified locations, working to keep the fire danger down as the region hits the height of fire season.