Inside the Kings Mountain Volunteer Fire Brigade - July 2015

By Steve Johnson
July 2015

Wild Fires

Kings Mountain is lucky to be close to the ocean with lots of fog. You may not like the fog but I love it. It provides moisture and high humidity that helps any forest fires from becoming a danger to the community, including your house. But there are certain weather conditions that could result in a large fire in our area. These include:

  • Several days of hot weather (dries out the burnable material)
  • Low humidity (25 % or less vs. our usual 50-60 %) 
  • High wind conditions
  • Drought
  • Sudden changes in weather

I have been involved in about 15 wildland fires on Kings Mountain in the 20 years I was an active firefighter. The largest was about 30 acres. Many fires are much larger. If you hike the mountain you can see remnants of larges fires from the 1930’s era. Large charred redwoods stumps with a ring of new trees around them. My last wildland fire was the Huddart Park fire in 2007. We were paged out at about 3 AM based on a report of flames seen from Interstate 280. Chief Sullivan found the fire at about 5 AM, deep in the woods down the Richards Rd. trail about a half mile south of the fire station. That call lasted 17 hours. But we got it out! There have been many fires in the open space area. I was on one in the open space in early evening. After about 45 minutes, the Skylonda captain called us all to evacuate. The fire was caused by a live power line down! Another danger of fighting fires! There are several methods of fighting a wild fire, including a “progressive lay” hose attack, mobile attack and aircraft drops of retardant or water. But the most common method is to use hand tools (shovel, pick (Polosky), a large rake/hoe called a Macleod and brush cutters. The idea is to isolate the fire by building a bare earth barrier around the perimeter. All this takes time, so most wildland fire responses last several hours to several days. A fire crew is often left overnight to ensure there are no flare ups of missed “hot spots.” I’ll have another article on this later in the year.

Safety Tip of the Month – Protecting your house from wildland fires

Structure protection is one of the duties of wildland firefighting. The fire department goal is that no structures (homes) are lost during a fire. But you can do a lot to help the fire department save your home. Start with 100 ‘of “defensible space” around your house. Or at least a large clear area that the fire can’t jump. Move any combustibles around the exterior, such as brush piles, firewood stacked against the house, pine leaves on the roof or in gutters, etc. And have a hose ready. Also make sure your driveway is fire engine-accessible.

Contact me at sfjohns[at]pacbell[dot]net for more information.