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A pending torrent of fire hazards

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April 17, 2005 01:41PM
Growing danger

WET WINTER'S AFTERSHOCKS: A pending torrent of fire hazards

12:40 AM PDT on Saturday, April 16, 2005

By JENNIFER BOWLES / The Press-Enterprise

Where most see a rain-soaked Inland region carpeted by wildflowers, Stephanie Swanstrom sees an unprecedented amount of fuel that will soon be ripe for wildfires.

"We're experiencing very tall, dense vegetation, it's just amazing for this time of year," said Swanstrom, a Perris-based fire-prevention technician for the California Department of Forestry.

With tightly packed weeds and grasses reaching up to 4 feet high across the Inland area, she said she's careful not to miss anything on her inspections of vacant lots where she looks for unkempt fields that can be a fire hazard.

"I want to make sure I've done a thorough job this year, because it can be catastrophic for someone," she said.

Increased fire fuel is just one of the consequences of a near-record rainfall this year that produced unprecedented wildflowers and dazzling waterfalls. The storms left badly bruised mountain roads that could hamper the firefighting effort this season, and a soggy region ripe for a burst of mosquitoes and another round of West Nile virus.

"This season scares me, too; it's just excellent conditions," said Joan Mulcare, San Bernardino County manager of vector-control programs.

Many Inland residents on the outer edges of suburbia will have to cut rain-fed grasses and abide by a new state law aimed at preventing brush fires that more than triples the "defensible space" around a home.

"That's what we're all worried about and talking about," said Kay Ceniceros, of the Mountain Community Fire Safe Council in Idyllwild. "We're in a window. We don't have this time for very long to protect this forest from going up in flames."

The unrelenting rain began early in October, prompted by a wayward jet stream that dropped 21.67 inches on Riverside, 5 inches less than the 1998 record but still the city's fifth-wettest winter on record. .........

http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_D_rain16.f389.html

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A pending torrent of fire hazards

katrina island 948April 17, 2005 01:41PM



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