Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 09:45

(TNS) — After battling the most destructive wildfires in California’s history over the past two years, Cal Fire is rolling out emergency fuel reduction projects to help protect the state’s most vulnerable communities.

The 35 projects span the state, from Siskiyou to San Diego counties. One crucial effort in the Sacramento area, the North Fork American River Shaded Fuel Break, is a fuel break project that covers 850 acres around the city of Colfax in Placer County.

A fuel break is an area of land where vegetation has been transformed to make fires more controllable, Cal Fire officials told reporters Thursday at the Colfax project site. Methods involve chipping and prescribed burning.

Though not designed to completely stop a fire from spreading, a fuel break gives firefighters strategic locations to access the fire. For instance, a fire in an area with a lot of fuel can get as hot as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas ground-level burning is only several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, making it much easier for firefighters to get close, an officer said.

Pre-fire planning involves looking at an area’s fire history, type of fuel and prevalence of camp fires, said Steve Garcia, Cal Fire’s unit forester and primary coordinator of the project.

A combination of risk factors makes Colfax particularly important, Garcia said: PG&E, which produces energy for half a million California residents, runs through the area. Interstate-80, Union Pacific Rail Line and the Kinder Morgan Petroleum Pipeline also run right through Colfax, so “in terms of a wildfire to cause chaos and massive impact to the state’s economy, this becomes a pretty high priority area,” he said.

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