Drought Seriously Increases Wildfire Danger

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Almost nine acres of the land Gary Beamer dreamed of owning for years now looks nothing like he envisioned.

Some of it was still smoldering Thursday evening after a fire earlier in the day.

Other parts of that placer county earth  were burnt black after the frightening kind of day when you look off your back porch and see fire.

What went through Beamer’s mind as he realized what was happening?

“I don’t think I can say that publicly but it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. We got a problem,'” he said.

With only 300 feet between Beamer’s house on Blue Oak Ranch Road and the damaging flames, a pilot taking off from Auburn Municipal Airport luckily intervened.

“The pilot saw smoke, radioed it in and enabled us to quickly get our crews out here,” Cal Fire’s Daniel Berlant said.

It’s the kind of fire, sparked by a legal burn pile, that crews would never be fighting in February – except for the ongoing severe drought.

“It goes to show just how dry it is. Already this year we’ve seen a significant increase in fire activity. In fact we’ve responded to nearly 600 wildfires. Here in a normal year for this first six weeks of 2014. That number should be closer to under 150,” Berlant said.

If flames had raced faster than firefighters in this case, Berlant says Beamer would have been in a good position with 100 feet of defensible space cleared around his house.

“I just keep it mowed down.  I try to keep the brush down.  I took a class at Sierra college in the ag program there…and that’s one of the things they discussed,” Beamer said.

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