In an effort to reduce the threat of wildfires, local officials conducted Orinda’s first controlled burn at the meadow of Wagner Ranch Nature Area.
The Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) completed the burn Oct. 20. The department plans to use similar controlled burns to minimize wind-blown embers that can rapidly spread a wildfire and to maintain the clear ground created this summer in the 11.5-mile Shaded Fuel Break.
With little wind, and humidity within the desired range, burn conditions were optimal and the operation went according to plan.
After placing firefighters with hoses around the area, the crew used a special device to drop small amounts of burning fuel, exposing limited sections at a time. Patrolling firefighters maintained boundaries with moderate amounts of hand-sprayed water, protecting benches, nest boxes and water pipes. The gully adjoining the meadow was burned last and separately so the team could focus on the more active fire generated by its steeper slope.
Fire trucks arrived at 1 p.m. and the burn was completed at about 3:30 p.m.
With manpower diverted to the burn site, MOFD did not have enough staff for a scheduled Cub Scout station tour. Instead the troop was invited to witness the department in action at the Nature Area. The scouts were joined by roughly two dozen bats who were roused by the smoke to investigate the scene, and then returned to their homes after determining they were safe from the flames.
The burn was conducted in an area with short dry grass providing little food or shelter for animals.
Offering hands-on education to Orinda school children, the Nature Area is comprised of four major wildlife habitats that illustrate stages of plant succession. The educational goal is to teach students about these different stages, including the plants and animals that occur in each habitat.
Prescribed burning, or some other disturbance, is required to keep the grassland and brush from turning into woodland, maintaining the distinct habitats and better representing what Orinda looked like when Native Americans regularly burned to maintain grassland with scattered valley oaks.
More on Fire Prevention
Orinda’s Wildfire Emergency Preparedness & Evacuation presentation and video from the North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break Meeting are scheduled to air at various days and times on Contra Costa TV (CATV Comcast 26) throughout the month. To see the broadcast schedule, go to http://bit.ly/2NIkQ77.