One indicator the Montecito Fire Department monitors when evaluating local wildfire risk is the state of the annual grasses. A trip up a district trail, or drive along the northern roads, will show most of this season’s grasses are fully cured which is represented by the dominant brown color and seeds that have dropped from their stems.
Annual grasses can be especially problematic because it takes very little heat to ignite them and they dominate the areas most traveled by people: roads, parking areas and trails. Statistics show 77% of all fire ignitions in Santa Barbara County are within 50 feet of a roadway, and 22% are started from vehicles.
May 18 marked the official start of the 2020 High Fire Season for Santa Barbara County. To help manage the invasive, flammable grasses this year, the Montecito Fire Protection District will be using sheep.
During June, Cuyama Lamb, will bring its 400 head to graze some 40 acres along East Mountain Drive.
Prescribed herbivory has shown to be an effective means to reduce continuity of fuels, fire intensity and fire risk. The project will be closely monitored, and if successful, the Fire Department plans to expand this fire mitigation tool to other areas of the district in 2021.
For more information on prescribed herbivory, visit https://www.cuyamalamb.com/.
The Fire Department has also started the annual Roadside Weed Abatement Project. The contractor, Fire Safe Solutions, will weed whip along about 12 miles of roadways, including Gibraltar, West Mountain Drive, East Mountain Drive, Bella Vista, Coyote, Romero, and Ortega Ridge roads over the next six weeks.
It is important for community members to remember their part in wildfire preparedness. The district will begin weed abatement inspections on all properties starting June 15. For more information about preparing for wildfire, visit www.montecitofire.com/fire-prevention.