Blaze sparks early fire season
by Joe Shreve
May 03, 2013 | 383 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A quarter-acre blaze near Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton prompted Cal Fire response, including this helicopter. Courtesy of Dan Dawson
A quarter-acre blaze near Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton prompted Cal Fire response, including this helicopter. Courtesy of Dan Dawson
A blaze in Felton Saturday, April 27, helped spurred state officials to declare an early start to fire season in Central California.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has called into service seasonal firefighters and banned open fires earlier than originally planned in anticipation of a hot, dry summer season, according to Cal Fire Division Chief Rich Sampson.

On Monday, April 29, Cal Fire enacted a ban on open fires in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Monterey and many other counties more than a month earlier than usual.

“Sometimes we won’t put a total burn ban in effect until June or July,” Sampson said.

He added that Cal Fire will also activate several dozen seasonal firefighters in the Central Coast region earlier than expected, in response to a dry winter and already-hot conditions.

“When we have one of these (seasons), everybody comes,” he said.

According to Sampson, the weekend fire in Felton — first reported by staff of Roaring Camp Railroads at about 5 p.m. Saturday — burned a quarter-acre of forested land on the railroad’s property and wasn’t fully contained until 2 p.m. Monday.

“It was right around the tracks,” Sampson said. “We had engines out all through the first night.”

Particularly alarming, he said, was the fact that four large redwood trees were caught in the blaze — redwoods, because of their water retention and flame-resistant bark, normally aren’t considered wildfire fuel until midsummer, when conditions are typically more dry.

“That’s one of the reasons we put the burn ban on,” he said. “We usually don’t see groves burning till July.”

The trees were so large, Sampson said, that a tree service was contracted to remove the dead trees in sections.

“Someone had to climb them and cut them down,” Sampson said. “They actually had to bring them down a piece at a time — it was quite an operation.”

According to Roaring Camp CEO Melani Clark, the fire occurred on the Deer Valley portion of the railroad’s narrow-gauge line on Bear Mountain and was very close to the tracks’ intersection with a dirt service road.

Sampson on Monday said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

He said that the conditions of the blaze were reminiscent of 2008, when massive wildfires raged across much of the state.

That June, the Martin Fire burned 520 acres in Bonny Doon. In August 2009, during another dry summer, the Lockheed Fire burned another 7,800 acres.

For more information on the Cal Fire burn ban, visit

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