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‘Things Are Already Dry & Burning’

Ukiah Valley residents have been advised to be ‘very careful’ when burning excess vegetation.

An escaped burn pile Monday morning showed just how dry much of the vegetation is in the Ukiah Valley, where local firefighters are already on alert for fire season in the first week of March.

“It was burning pretty good,” UVFA Battalion Chief Eric Singleton said of a vegetation fire on Sanford Ranch Road that began as a four-by-four foot pile when it was first reported the morning of Feb. 28, but which quickly grew to a 200-foot-by-40-foot fire in the creek bed by the time crews arrived.

Singleton said crews were able to “quickly stop forward progress” of the fire, but how well the vegetation burned definitely has them concerned about the months and months of fire season ahead.

“Everyone needs to be extremely careful,” he said, explaining that while it can certainly help to have people burning vegetation now that could provide ladder fuels for fires that spark later this summer, it is very important that the burning be done as safely as possible.

“Our biggest concern is that the burn piles are attended at all times,” he said, adding that every fire should have someone watching out who can either help contain it, or at least quickly call for firefighters to respond, because “the sooner we get there, the better.”

The day after Monday’s escaped burn pile, Singleton said crews responded to more burn piles near Mendocino College that were filling the sky above the valley with smoke late Tuesday morning.

“And those turned out to be under control, there were just a lot of them, and they were sending up a lot of smoke,” said Singleton. So much smoke, in fact, that crews were concerned and headed out there to investigate without being called first. “We’re definitely keeping an eye out.”

While the fires near Mendocino College did not turn out to be a problem, Singleton pointed to a fire sparked Tuesday afternoon in Sonoma County as more proof of how dry the region is already. Called the Alpine Fire, that blaze near the Russian River burned about seven acres of vegetation above Monte Rio before forward progress was reportedly stopped.

While waiting for the next fire in their jurisdiction, Singleton said UVFA crews have been getting their legs and lungs ready to climb steep hills by hiking the trails at Low Gap Park to “gear up for Wildland fire season.”

(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

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