PILOT HILL, Calif. (CBS13) — Firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are scrambling to finish controlled burns near Pilot Hill in El Dorado County before temperatures get too high.
“The smoke and the burning is in my backyard,” said Lynelle Robertson, who lives in El Dorado County. “If it gets across Highway 49, where do you think it’s going to go, it’s going to come right down here.”
With triple-digit temperatures quickly approaching, residents in the foothills are preparing their properties for fire season.
“And it’s a three-month process because just about the time you get it mowed down, it rains again and it comes back,” Robertson said.
She has a 10-foot pile from her 10-acre lot. But burning it now isn’t an option. This week, Cal Fire’s Amador El Dorado Unit has been conducting controlled burns in the area.
“Cal Fire uses prescribed fire to both increase forest health and resiliency, as well as protecting the public, creating fuel breaks,” said Brice Bennett, a Cal Fire spokesperson.
Bennett says environmental experts spend weeks planning the burns, which need a specific set of conditions to move forward. To have a controlled burn, Cal Fire has to wait for the right mix of conditions: the right temperature, the right humidity level and the right time of day.
But Robertson wonders why Cal Fire can conduct burns when residents can’t.
“The recording says no burn permit due to air quality,” she told CBS13. “How did they get around it?”
Bennet says pollution from controlled burns is far lower than pollution from a burning building. As for why residents can no longer burn on their own? It comes down to resources.
“The burn piles are escaping, the burning intensity has increased,” Bennett said. “A simple garden hose will not put out these fires anymore.”
But with a prescribed fire, Bennett says Cal Fire has the right resources to keep it contained.
“We have multiple amounts of resources on scene, multiple hand crews, multiple bulldozers,” Bennett said. “It’s to make sure that fire stays where it’s supposed to. “If anything falls out of prescription the fire is stopped.”
Bennett recommends using a land waste facility to get rid of debris, instead of burning it. If you’d like to know exactly when these controlled burns will happen, you can head to Cal Fire’s Facebook page.