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Local fire departments prepare for summer blazes
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Firefighters practice various techniques during a planned burn of brush in south Turlock on Monday. Members of the Turlock Rural, Denair, Mountain View, Keyes, Ceres and Turlock fire departments participated in the exercise. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

The fires ravaging the wild lands in Arizona are a vivid reminder for local residents that wildfire season is here.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced the official start of fire season on Sunday for most of Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Calaveras and San Joaquin counties.

The season is getting a later start than usual because of the late spring rains, but Cal Fire is expecting the number of grass and wild land fires reported to shoot up as the mercury climbs.

Cal Fire Acting Director Ken Pimlott explained that the increased precipitation has sprouted up an abundance of grass that could feed the flames when it dries.

“That’s why residents should take the time now, while the grass is still green, to make sure they are ready for California wildfires,” Pimlott said.

To help prevent wildfires from consuming homes, Cal Fire recommends residents create a defensible space of 100 feet around their homes by proactive planting of shrubs and fire resistant plants and clearing out dry vegetation. All dead grass, plants, and weeds should be removed in the 30 feet nearest the home.

The department also recommends cleaning gutters and rooftops of any dry debris.

Cal Fire also suggests homeowners harden their homes by using building materials that are resistant to flying embers.

“It’s the combination of both defensible space and the hardening of homes that give a home the best chance of surviving a wildfire,” Pimlott said.

Fire agencies are also prepping for the wildfire season. The members of the Turlock Rural Fire Department were getting some hands-on experience in a live wildfire burn training exercise Monday night.

Assistant Chief Steve Williams said the crews spent about three hours practicing various techniques as the fire went through several evolutions.

The TRFD was joined by other neighboring fire departments, which allows for agencies to train on different equipment and practice a variety of tactics — an experience that proves beneficial during mutual aid calls, Williams said.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.