TUOLUMNE COUNTY, Calif (KTXL) — With California in a historic drought, one spark from a lawnmower can cause a catastrophic wildfire. Cal Fire’s Tuolumne Calaveras Unit has responded to dozens of fires started by property owners.
Cal Fire reminded everyone Wednesday that even if a fire is caused accidentally, the person who started the fire will face a fine.
“Fire prevention is a personal responsibility. Most wildland fires are human-caused and preventable,” said Fire Prevention Specialist from Cal Fire, Emily Kilgore.
Kilgore says crews have been called out to two fires sparked by property owners
“Equipment fires are the second largest cause of vegetation fires right now,” Kilgore said.
Wednesday, firefighters were mopping up hot spots caused by a fire that broke out in rural San Joaquin County Tuesday when a property owner welded without the proper equipment and permit. That fire grew to 23 acres before crews were able to contain it.
“With the drought conditions we’ve been seeing throughout the state, the light, flashing fuels in the Tuolumne-Calaveras area are igniting readily,” said Kilgore.
The Burson fire in Calaveras County sparked while a homeowner was mowing their lawn Monday.
“Riding lawn mowers are intended for well-manicured lawns that are green, lush, and watered regularly and not the native vegetation that we have in this area,” explained Kilgore.
Cal Fire says even though these fires were unintentional, it’s still illegal to be negligent.
“Causing an uncontrolled wildfire can be catastrophic, and we want to hold people accountable for their actions,” she said.
Since January, Cal Fire Tuolumne Calaveras Unit has responded to 42 escaped debris burns, 23 equipment use fires, and eight fires caused by vehicles.
Cal Fire issued 16 citations this year.
According to Kilgore, the fines from the citations can vary from hundreds to millions of dollars depending on the violation and the damage caused.
“If you’re doing the right thing the right way at the right time you can prevent a wildfire from happening. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of pre-planning,” Kilgore said.
While the recent fires were contained quickly, Kilgore believes they just as easily could have burned out of control since a single spark can cause a catastrophic wildfire.