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Another storm brings more growth, fuel to local mountains and canyons

Wild mustard is roughly five feet high and still growing in Elings Park
Herb Tuyay/KEYT
Wild mustard is roughly five feet high and still growing in Elings Park

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A late season storm will bring more water to creeks that are already flowing in the hills above town and, add to heavy brush "loading" in the mountains and canyons.

It is something to consider, well ahead of high fire season.

"This very late storm coming will produce a lot more growth in the fine fuels," said Mark von Tillow, Wildland Specialist at Santa Barbara City Fire Department. "Another crop of grass, probably."

Once brush clearing season begins, von Tillow said the foothills and areas linked to Santa Barbara's fire history will have to be kept in check.

"Just this morning I was taking a walk in Elings Parks and the mustard is already shoulder high and it's not done growing. So, it's gonna shape up to be like last year, it's going to be a long growing season."

He added that property owners will likely need to do multiple rounds of brush clearing this spring.

The Santa Barbara City Fire Department recommends a 100 foot clearance around properties in the foothills and 300 feet in "extreme" high fire zones. Along the coast, von Tillow recommends property owners have a brush clearance of 30 feet and, 50 feet in interior coastal communities.

Property owners who refuse or cannot abide by the brush clearance recommendations could eventually face fines. von Tillow said that is a last resort.

"We try education and engineering first before enforcement."

This wildland specialist, whose career also includes decades with Los Padres National Forest Fire Management, said now is the time to brush up on the Santa Barbara County Fire Department's Ready, Set, Go! program, well before high fire season begins.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Beth Farnsworth

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