News.bytes Extra, issue 290
Homes Protected by Community Fuel Break
A restored “Sunrise Fuel Break,” near Julian, California in San Diego County, prevented homes from burning during the Banner Fire in early July. The Banner Fire started just outside of Julian and burned uphill towards the community of Whispering Pines when residents were evacuated. The strategic location of the Sunrise Fuel Break, aggressive air attack and efforts of firefighters held off the fire at the fuel break and no homes were lost.
The Banner Fire burns near a home
An airtanker drops fire retardant on the fire
In the past five years, several large fires have threatened homes and other private property in the Julian area. The Sunrise Fuel Break, originally constructed in the 1950s, was in dire need of refurbishment. The community responded, seeking to hasten efforts towards restoration of the fuel break. The Sunrise Fuel Break was constructed on both public and private lands through the cooperative efforts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), CAL FIRE San Diego Unit, Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (volunteer), and several Julian community Fire Safe Councils.
BLM and CAL FIRE provided fuels crews, engines, and dozers, to complete of the project in time to protect the Whispering Pines community. Another contributing factor to the successful containment of the blaze was homeowner defensible space. The Fire Safe Council, in cooperation with state and federal agencies, developed and distributed educational information homeowners used to create space around their homes to protect them from wildland fire. With authorization from BLM, homeowners were able reduce combustible vegetation on BLM public lands within 100’ of their homes. This area where urban communities meet undeveloped wildlands is commonly referred to as “wildland urban interface.” County and state regulations recently expanded the defensible space perimeter from 30’ to 100’ in response to previous loss of property.
The continued construction and on-going maintenance of the Sunrise Fuel Break, and other fuel breaks, is a critical part of firefighting efforts to protect both private and public resources. Individual homeowner involvement is an integral part of protecting private property, as our natural resources exist in a fire adapted eco-system.
When local agencies initiate hazardous fuel reduction projects, homeowners can assist by completing their own fuel reduction on their property. Reducing fuels between homes and natural areas results in the successful protection of communities as demonstrated in Julian and Whispering Pines.