Despite recent thunderstorms and rain in Amador County, the evidence is all around us: The hills are brown much earlier than usual and that means fire danger is, too. Officials are so concerned that they held the first prescribed burn within the City of Jackson last Wednesday, May 19. I talked with Jackson City Manager Yvonne Kimball about the prescribed burn and Jackson Fire Chief Deborah Mackey about fire prevention and what businesses can do to prepare for a long fire season ahead.

Yvonne Kimball City Manager Jackson CAKimball said the city has already taken steps to reduce fire danger. “The city passed a weed abatement earlier this year in order to assist the Fire Chief and the Code Enforcement Officer effectively,” she said.

“Both officials have reported that they have been busy dealing with weed abatement issues lately.”

Defensible Space

Controlling weeds is only one of a multi-pronged effort to prevent wildfires in and around Jackson. Mackey said the Jackson Fire Department has not only increased firefighter training, but they’re also reaching out to the community. “We not only have outreach programs to community organizations, but we also have monthly meetings to address concerns and share resources.”

The prescribed burn in Jackson was to the east of the city cemetery and north of Placer Drive. This area, called Oro de Amador, is a wide expanse of mostly grass and some trees—just the fuel needed for a fire to spread south into a residential and business neighborhood that includes the Amador Senior Center and Amador Residential Care.

Jackson Oro De Amador Controlled Burn May 19 2021With that in mind, Kimball said, “controlled burns have been proven to be an effective wildland fire prevention strategy.” Mackey said the Fire Department waited for the right conditions for the controlled burn to take place, which occurred from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on May 19. Firefighters from the Jackson and Ione Fire Departments took part in the controlled burn to create a buffer zone for the neighborhood to the south of Oro De Amador, as shown in the photo at right.

Now is the Right Time

Mackey was blunt in her assessment of the conditions right now: “City, county, or state, we are already in fire season.” No matter if you have a home or business, she said, everyone needs to have a plan for fire safety that includes these common-sense recommendations:

  • Have a fire evacuation plan.
  • Ensure that family members and employees also have a plan.
  • Harden homes and businesses against fire.

Deborah Mackey Jackson Fire Chief from amadorgov.blogspot.comBut what in the world does the term “harden” mean? The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety defines “harden” in nine ways, and some of them are the same as those you would follow in your own home (and home-based business). They include:

  • Create defensible space around your building.
  • Reduce vegetative fuel.
  • Check fire hydrants to ensure they are no more than 250 feet from primary buildings.
  • Use non-combustible materials for all signage.
  • Consider adding exterior walls made of noncombustible siding materials like siding and brick.
  • Use dual-paned windows with tempered glass.
  • Install non-combustible mesh screening over all vents to keep embers from coming inside.
  • Clean and use non-combustible materials for the roof and gutters.
  • Choose noncombustible materials for decks.

Obviously, not all these options will be possible for logistical and financial reasons. What’s more, if you’re in a historical building, then you may have some of these issues resolved such as no vegetation and a brick wall exterior. But, as Chief Mackey said, we all need to take measures for fire safety now so our businesses don’t become a tragic news story later.

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