Cal Fire: Boulder Creek Wildfire Sparked by Larger-Than-Allowed Backyard Burn

Fire Engineering news

Hannah Hagemann

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.


Apr. 1—BOULDER CREEK — A Boulder Creek property owner’s backyard burn ignited Wednesday’s Fossil Fire, which scorched upward of 3 acres, according to Cal Fire San Mateo —Santa Cruz Unit Chief Ian Larkin.

The controlled burn, according to Larkin, was larger than legally allowed in Santa Cruz County.

“Folks are out there trying to do due diligence to clear their property,” Larkin said. “They made a burn pile and let the pile burn down and didn’t fully extinguish ashes and just thought it was out. A couple days later enough wind came out and cast those embers out to some susceptible fuels and started a fire.”

The combination of high temperatures and light breeze provided enough ammunition for those embers to travel and spark the Fossil Fire, Larkin said.

“It’s a little concerning to us, we’ll keep eyes on this the next few weeks to see what weather does, if temperatures stay mild and cool we’ll leave the ability to do backyard burning in effect,” Larkin said. “If we’re getting a lot of escape burns, we may have to do an early cancelation of backyard burns.”

Larkin said he expects the fire to be fully extinguished Thursday.

Cal Fire crews are still on the ground, working to fully control the fire, which spread just outside the CZU Lightning Complex fire burn perimeter, officials confirmed to the Sentinel.

Firefighters have contained the fire to the point where it’s not growing, and fuel breaks have been established along the perimeter of the blaze. According to Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Information Officer Cecile Juliette, as of Thursday morning, at least two fire engines were on scene responding to the Fossil Fire.

The #FossilFire is burning in timber.

— CAL FIRE CZU (@CALFIRECZU) March 31, 2021

On Wednesday, crews held the fire within one hour of arriving on the scene of the blaze, according to Cal Fire. Those responding yesterday included a firefighting aircraft and Boulder Creek Fire Department volunteer firefighters.

The fire sparked on a day where Santa Cruz saw nearly-record shattering temperatures. According to the National Weather Service in Monterey,Santa Cruz hit 86 degrees Wednesday, which is just shy of the 1988 record for that day of 88 degrees. Meteorologist Drew Peterson said Santa Cruz’s Wednesday high is the second-highest-temperature on record since 1893.

Cal Fire CZU Unit Chief Larkin said although he doesn’t think of April as active fire season, residents need to remain alert.

“Unfortunately, it’s been a very short period of time since the end of fire season, we have not gotten a lot of rain and there’s a concern right now about how fast our fuels are going to dry out with these little offshore wind events,” Larkin said. “We could be at fire season much earlier this year … people need to be diligent, if you see smoke, call 911.”

Cal Fire is staffing up a month early this year, in an effort to be more prepared — Larkin said by June, crews will be at peak numbers, as compared to what is usually July.


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