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Wildfire protection: County begins controlled burns near Lompoc Valley communities

Wildfire protection: County begins controlled burns near Lompoc Valley communities

In an effort to protect surrounding communities from the threat of wildfires, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department began a series of controlled burns Tuesday in the Burton Mesa area just north of Lompoc.

This particular series of pile burns is scheduled to continue through Friday, March 1, with operations planned from around 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the burn days. The burns are being conducted on plots located west of Rucker Road, east of the East Mesa Oaks subdivision and north of Galaxy Way and Titan Avenue between Oak Hill Drive and Northoaks Drive.

A joint statement from County Fire and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) noted that the burn operations are the “most efficient way to eliminate biomass” that could pose a fire threat.

“The treatment and elimination of cuttings will help to safeguard the surrounding community in the event of wildfire,” the statement read.

Following this week’s burns, County Fire plans to conduct similar burning operations in other areas through June 1. Exact notification for those burns will be given the week they are expected to start, according to the county.

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A Santa Barbara County firefighter on Tuesday lights a pile of tree branches and brush on the Burton Mesa that was cleared to create defensible space to fight wildfires.

The burns are being conducted by County Fire in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County APCD and the California Air Resources Board in order to minimize impacts on local air quality.

The Santa Barbara County APCD staff has reviewed the smoke management plan and provided conditions to minimize smoke impacts in Santa Barbara County, according to County Fire.

The burns are dependent upon weather and air quality conditions that are favorable for smoke dispersal, reported the APCD, which noted that the burns will be rescheduled if the conditions are not as desired.

Members of the public who smell smoke are encouraged by county officials to take precautions, limit outdoor activities and use common sense to reduce any harmful health effects.

“When you can smell smoke or when it is visible in your area, avoid strenuous outdoor activity and remain indoors as much as possible,” read a portion of the statement from County Fire and the APCD. “These precautions are especially important to children, older adults, and those with heart and lung conditions.

“If you are sensitive to smoke, consider temporarily relocating and closing all doors and windows on the day of the burn,” it continued. “Symptoms of smoke exposure can include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain, nausea, and unusual fatigue or lightheadedness. Use caution when driving near prescribed burns.”

A temporary air monitor has been placed near the burn site, according to the county. Air quality conditions will be available for review on the APCD’s website at www.OurAir.org/todays-air-quality.

The burns are taking place less than a month after County Fire officials hosted a town hall forum in Mission Hills on Jan. 31 to discuss fire safety with local residents and encourage the development of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base for the Lompoc Record. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

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