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South Bay crews clear dried vegetation ahead of weekend heat wave

Fire Watch: South Bay crews clear vegetation to ease fire danger
Fire Watch: South Bay crews clear vegetation to ease fire danger 03:20

SARATOGA -- With hot temperatures forecast through Labor Day weekend, firefighters across the Bay Area are concerned about the increase fire danger from already dried-out hillsides.

The newly formed Fuels Reduction Crew with Santa Clara County Fire is working hard now to clear brush in the Saratoga Hills, so they never have to battle a massive wildfire in this very place.

"Every summer, we're eclipsing a new record every single year," said Mike Mathiesen, Santa Clara County's Battalion Chief of Pre-Fire Management and Wildfire Resilience. "It used to be a joke that this is the worst fire season ever. And that's been the case for the last 10 years in a row. I don't see it improving much unless we take some proactive steps to manage our forests and watersheds which our program is trying to do."

The fire crew that was working to clear brush in Saratoga was from the South Bay and East Bay. Crews were removing dead trees and overgrown brush on Charcoal Road. By cutting down the dry vegetation, they're also cutting down the potential intensity of a possible wildfire.

"What we're trying to do is investing time. Like here on Charcoal Road, it's a strategic fuel break which will help box in a fire," said Mathiesen. "It helps fire managers build a box, and it takes the momentum out of the fire and gives us a fighting chance to make a stand and stop the forward progress before it burns the whole watershed compared to just portions of it."

Mathiesen has been a firefighter since 1993. He showed KPIX a fuel break created in 2018 that did its job and stopped a wildfire from spreading in the area just last year.

He says in just the last 10 years, wildfires have grown larger and even more devastating.  It's something he never used to see until now.

"We are now in an era where we are not in fire season like a snow season or a rain season," said Mathiesen. "We are in a year-round fire season"

Firefighters are doing their part to keep our community safe and asking homeowners to do the same by clearing dry brush from their homes. Homeowners can learn more from Santa Clara County Fire's online resources about hazardous fuel reduction and creating defensible space.

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