Clearing brush critical during bad fire season

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) California fire officials are warning that the state could face one of the worst wildfire seasons in a century.

Corey Wilford with the Kern County Fire Departments says dry brush is a big problem, because it acts as fuel for wildfires.

"When we get into the hotter months, those hotter days tend to dry out the fuels a lot more. So when you get into the lower humidities, fuel just gets to that stage where it's ready to combust," says Wilford.

By this time of year, there are typically around 1,100 wildfires with 8,000 acres burned. This year though, California firefighters have responded to more than 2,100 wildfires with more than 50,000 acres burned.

"We're in the third year of our drought right now, so we're really seeing these fires take off, and when they actually catch, as we're seeing around the state right now, we're burning more acres than we normally would," says Wilford.

The solution is proper planning, according to Wilford. Homeowners living in wildland areas around the county should have already cleared out dry brush around their homes. He says when you clear out the brush around a residence, it creates a defensible space, which slows down a fire in the instance of a disaster.

"When we have structure protection, as we call it, these engines will go up to the house during wildfires, and if your house is already protected, if you've already done your hazard reduction, those firefighters aren't spending as much time trying to prepare your property for the flame front," says Wilford.

KCFD set the defensible space clearing deadline for June 15, and firefighters are already out patrolling the county looking for areas with excessive brush. The department is documenting any violations and sending out notices to violators, which can result in hundreds of dollars in fines.

"Get it done, it makes things easier for us, it definitely helps your house out in the event of a disaster, and it really makes things flow more smoothly in a disaster situation," says Wilford.