Metal grinding operations blamed in 3 recent wildfires

Bee Staff ReportsJune 27, 2014 

Grinding operations caused three fires over the past week, law enforcement officials with the Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported Friday.

The fires were:

• The Reed fire in San Andreas, which burned 109 acres and destroyed two structures

• The Oak fire on Pool Station Road near Copperopolis, which burned 88 acres and destroyed one structure

• The Rawhide fire on Rawhide Road near Jamestown, which burned 1 acre

These metal-on-metal grinding activities produce a large amount of sparks, which landed in dry vegetation and started the three fires, Cal Fire said in a news release.

State law mandates that any operation of any equipment that can produce a spark in vegetation-covered areas requires the following:

• A minimum 10-foot clearance of all flammable vegetation around the operation area

• A shovel and a backpack pump water-type fire extinguisher in the working areas

Statewide, California has experienced record-breaking low rainfall, low humidity and low fuel moisture levels, along with higher-than-normal temperatures and increased fire activity. Cal Fire opened fire season months earlier than normal, and these recent fires indicate native vegetation is much more susceptible to ignition and are burning hotter and faster than normal.

All outdoor operations need to comply with California law, Cal Fire said in a reminder. Projects should preferably be done during the early morning hours. If the project can be moved inside without the risk of starting a fire, do so. If the project can be delayed until conditions are more favorable, that is highly recommended.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Cal Fire also cautions residents about the use of fireworks. Fireworks of all types are illegal in Tuolumne County, Ebbetts Pass Fire District in Calaveras County, and the Stanislaus National Forest. Fireworks labeled “safe and sane” are legal in certain areas of Calaveras County.

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