Throughout the hot days of summer and fall, rangers work steadily to clear acres of dead trees and brush in the County’s Julian parks. Chainsaws and muscle chip away at tons of dry vegetation; piles of the cuttings tower in open areas.
January begins the five month period towards which the preparations aim. Days and days of burning, week after week, will safely destroy the fuel that might otherwise stoke a devastating wildfire.
“We work all year to get ready for this time of year,” said Roger Covalt, a supervising park ranger with the San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation. Covalt oversees the removal of dead vegetation at the County’s Volcan Mountain Preserve, Santa Ysabel Preserve, and William Heise County Park.
This year’s pile burns at Volcan, Santa Ysabel East and Heise are on schedule to begin the second week in January.
The 1999 Volcan Fire, the 2003 Cedar Fire and the 2007 Witch Creek Fire scorched the parks and left behind much of the dead, dry vegetation that needs to be removed, Covalt said.
Covalt said a Cal Fire captain, trained inmate crews and park rangers will conduct the burns, typically two or three weekdays each week. Water tenders and small, portable water pumpers called “water buffalos,” will be on hand for protection and control during the burns.
The pile fires will be set as weather permits, Covalt said.
“If it’s a Santa Ana or high winds, then no,” the ranger said. “The best conditions would be right after it rains…We go with what Cal Fire says.”
The smoke from the fires will be visible to hikers, campers and residents, Covalt said. The County will alert the media about the burn program to try to preempt concerns. But in a region understandably vigilant about wildfire, worried people will call to report the smoke, Covalt said.
The ranger said he will report the exact location of each permitted fire in advance to fire dispatchers. So when the public reports smoke, the dispatchers can distinguish real emergencies from the controlled burns.
For more information on the planned pile burns in Volcan Mountain, Santa Ysabel and Heise, call Supervising Park Ranger Roger Covalt at 760-765-4093.
- Santa Ysabel East Open Space, Farmers Rd, Julian
- Volcan Mountain Open Space, Farmers Rd, Julian
- William Heise County Park, 4945 Heise Park Rd., Julian