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Larger fire breaks could be in the future to protect properties

Mountain fire prevention
John Palminteri
Central Coast communities may see bigger fuel breaks to reduce the spread of large scale fires.

SANTA BARBARA CO., Calif. - Sending a large scale response at the first sign of a vegetation fire has proven to be a strong  attack in many cases, but firefighters have plans coming together to fight fire conditions before flames break out, with larger plans backed up by the state.

It includes community participation, outreach and larger areas for defensible space.

Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Daniel Bertucelli says, "it is definitely a priority for all the fire chiefs in the county."

Managing fire fuels around homes with the help of property owners is mandatory,  but now it appears there's a new playbook. That's been driven by the  massive and destructive wildfires in recent years. They have been  far more destructive that what California has seen  in years gone by.

"To see now fires that are burning now 18,000 homes like up in Paradise it is just a testament to what we are seeing," said Bertucelli.

Some targeted areas for big fuel reduction and fire prevention programs include Mission Canyon near Santa Barbara, the Painted Cave and Trout club mountain communities and the Lompoc Valley.

"That (Lompoc) valley has a history of significant fires, large fires, fires that are pushed by significant winds so that is definitely an area of concern," said Bertucelli. "Anything we can do from that prevention side of things to eliminate a fire from going from a one day operation to a multi-day, what we call campaign fire that can be devastating to a community. "

There will still have to be a balance between sensitive habitat and the need to protect lives and property. What's happened in the past will help shape the future plans. 

"Fire history, weather patterns, fuels that are  in that area,  how old those fuels are and the populations in those area that are at risk," are all studied as part of the fire prevention plan, Bertucelli said.

Governor Newsom says he is allocating money for brush management projects, backed by an emergency declaration to speed up permits where they are not hurting sensitive  species, natural or tribal resources.

Bertucelli says in the long run he sees the benefits.

"If you can break up that horizontal continuity of fuels, the fire won't burn as intensely.  That will allow us to get in there and put that fire out."

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.

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