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Justin Reser and Rob Barr

The Valencia County Fire Department is dedicated in creating a safer community through professionalism, preparedness and effective emergency response. This is our mission statement.

Let’s look at community safety in regards to wildland and brush fires in our county. The months of February, March and April are statistically the months we have the most brush fires.

Remember to always check the “burn day” notice to see if it is permissible to burn in the county. You can do this by calling 866-2036, checking the VCFD Facebook page, or checking the Valencia County web page. If you are planning on burning, the fire must be monitored by someone who is 18 years of age or older. When you are burning, wear jeans, a long-sleeve cotton shirt, leather boots and leather gloves.

When you conduct open burning, you must have a water source ready, which means next to where you are burning and turned on. The water source must be capable of extinguishing the fire you have. Extinguish your fire completely when you are finished burning.

Your smoke cannot obscure a roadway or airstrip. You cannot burn trash at any time in Valencia County. You cannot burn anything in a full-sized barrel. In fact, possessing a barrel used for burning is also not allowed. These are rules listed in the county’s open-burning ordinance, available online or from the county clerk’s office. Violation of this ordinance can result in a citation and court summons.

If found guilty, you can be fined up to $300 and or serve 90 days in jail. The municipalities have their own respective ordinances in reference to open burning.

Here are some safety tips for our fire season:

• If you see a fire that you believe to be out of control or not being monitored, please call 911 immediately. Please provide as much detail as to what is on fire, how fast it is moving and how large the area is.

Also include if any structures are threatened. Try to get as exact of an address or location as possible.

• Make sure your home address numbers are visible. This will help emergency responders locate your house. If you are trying to put the fire out when fire crews arrive, please move out of their way and let them take over fire suppression.

If you need to evacuate your house due to a wildland fire:

Make a list of things you want to take and know where they are located. Consider gathering some of these items now and keeping them in a box that is ready to go.

Remember the five P’s:

• Pills, eyeglasses and other medical supplies;

• Pictures, small artwork, jewelry and other important mementos;

• Pets, pet food, leashes and pet carriers;

• Papers, such as birth certificates and tax records;

• Phone, charger and phone numbers of people you will want to call.

When you leave the house, put on cotton clothing with long sleeves, plus boots and gloves. Before you leave, close all windows and all doors into garages, barns and sheds. Close the windows of any vehicles that you will leave behind. Turn off ventilation fans in the house. Close the valve on the propane tank. Turn on all outdoor lights. If you have time to set up a sprinkler, have it spray vegetation next to your home.

Driving in smoke: If you must drive into smoke, turn on your lights and flashers. Roll up the windows and unlock the doors. Turn off fans that would bring smoke into the vehicle. Then go very slowly. This will help you stay on the road and avoid colliding with other vehicles. Do not stop over flaming debris.

Being smart and safe when it comes to open burning and wildland fires is a community responsibility. We each play a role and can help save lives and property.

If you would like more information or have more questions do not hesitate to stop in or contact your local agency.

(Rob Barr is the Valencia County Wildland captain and oversees prevention and mitigation within the unincorporated areas of the county; Justin Reser is a career lieutenant with Valencia County Fire Department.)

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