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Burn suspensions come in wake of Crystal Fire

Since Jan. 1, reports Cal Fire LNU, it has responded to 68 wildfires. Over half of those fires have occurred within the last three weeks.

Cal Fire/Napa County Fire personnel work to put out hot spots and mop up on a Deer Park hillside where the Crystal Fire broke. (Cal Fire LNU Photo)

The cause of a 60-acre wildfire that started June 5 in the Deer Park area remained under investigation this week, according to Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, which deemed the Crystal Fire 100% contained on June 8.

On Monday, Cal Fire LNU announced that it was suspending the use of burn permits in North Bay counties, followed by the announcement on Tuesday that an open burn ban for the Lake Berryessa Recreational Area will go into effect Monday at 8 a.m.

Open flames such as charcoal grills and fire pits will be prohibited at all Berryessa recreational sites managed by Napa County and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from that time until further notice, a Cal Fire media notice stated.

“The increasing fire danger posed by the high volume of dead grass and hotter, drier conditions in the region is prompting Cal Fire to suspend all burn permits for outdoor residential burning within the State Responsibility Areas of Colusa, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties,” the agency said in a press release issued Monday morning. 

The burn permit suspension also takes effect Monday, June 17, at 8 a.m., and includes all residential outdoor burning of landscape debris such as branches and leaves, Cal Fire said.

No residential structures were destroyed by last week’s Crystal Fire, but five firefighters were injured battling the blaze – LNU’s first to exceed 10 acres this year, Cal Fire reported. Four of the injured were treated and released from area hospitals. The fifth was treated at the scene and released.

The fire, which started in the same area as 2020’s catastrophic Glass Fire, rattled the nerves of residents from Napa to Calistoga, many posting on social media to alert friends living in the fire zone or to share photos of billowing smoke columns that could be seen across the valley for miles.

Cal Fire LNU was also using different social media channels to update the public on its progress, as well as posting multiple reports on its website throughout the four-day incident.

The unit’s initial response to the fire, which began at 1:40 p.m. in the 250 Block of Crystal Springs Road, included 13 engines, three water tenders, two helicopters, two bulldozers, three hand crews and 116 personnel.

By 6 p.m. the same day, those numbers had increased, and Cal Fire LNU issued notice that the fire was 50% contained with firefighters reporting that forward progress had been stopped. 

“Cal Fire LNU is being assisted by firefighters [from] throughout the Napa and Sonoma Counties,” the agency wrote in a June 5 incident update. “Numerous firefighting air tankers from throughout the State are flying fire suppression missions as conditions allow.”

Another wet winter and above average snowpack made for an abundance of annual vegetation this spring; now warming temperatures and winds are quickly drying it out, providing fuel that could spark or feed a wildfire given the right conditions.

Since Jan. 1, reports Cal Fire LNU, it has responded to 68 wildfires. Over half of those fires have occurred within the last three weeks.

“While outdoor burning of landscape debris by homeowners is no longer allowed, Cal Fire is asking residents to take that extra time to ensure that they are prepared for wildfires by maintaining a minimum of 100 feet of defensible space around every home and building on their property, and to evacuate if the time comes,” the agency said in its statement.

Here are some tips Cal Fire offers to residents to help them prepare their homes and property to avoid wildfire:

• Clear all dead and or dying vegetation 100 feet from around all structures

• Landscape with fire resistant plants and non-flammable ground cover

• Find alternative ways to dispose of landscape debris like chipping or hauling it to a biomass energy or green waste facility

Agricultural, land management, fire training and other industrial-type burning may proceed if a Cal Fire official inspects the burn site and issues a special permit.

As an alternative to using charcoal grills and fire pits, visitors to Berryessa recreation sites may use propane-operated cooking devices and gas operated fire rings, said Cal Fire.

“For clarification the burn ban does not apply to Berryessa residential communities or other recreational areas in Napa County,” officials stated.

For more information on how to create defensible space, how to be prepared for wildfires, as well as tips to prevent wildfires click here.