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Property owner doing the right thing the wrong way
July 9, 2012 (La Mesa) -- San Miguel Firefighters responded to a vegetation fire at the base of Mt. Helix just before 1:30 yesterday afternoon. Light to moderate flash fuel spread to half an acre before it was contained. In total four Engine Companies responded, two of the Engines responded from La Mesa as part of an automatic mutual aid agreement.

The property owner says he was clearing his land of weeds, using a weed wacker. He told investigators he set the machine down to change the nylon string. Not realizing how hot the engine of the weed wacker was, he set it down on top of dry grass. The property owner said the fire took off so fast he was unable to put it out. The land owner was treated for smoke inhalation on the scene. He was not transported.
It took crews about 10 minutes to contain the vegetation fire, and was completely knocked down in 15 minutes.
While the property owner set out to do the right thing by clearing his land of the dead vegetation, he did not follow all of the safety rules.  Below are some tips to help keep yard maintenance safer.
Here’s how to do it the Right Way:
  • Do all yard maintenance that requires a gas or electrical motor before 10 a.m. Not in the heat of the day, or when the wind is blowing!
  • Lawn mowers are designed to mow lawns. Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation.
  • Use a weed trimmer to cut down dry weeds and grass.
  • Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires you won’t even see, until it’s too late!
  • Don’t pull off into dry grass or brush.
  • Remove rocks in the area before you begin operating any equipment. A rock hidden in grass or weeds is enough to start a fire when struck by a metal blade.
  • In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable gasoline powered equipment including tractors, harvesters, chain saws, weed wackers, mowers, motorcycles, and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).
  • Keep the exhaust system, spark arresters and mower in proper working order and free of carbon buildup. Use the recommended grade of fuel and don’t top off. 
  • Keep the engine free of oil and dust, and keep the mower free of flammable materials. 
  • In wildland areas, a permit may be required for grinding and welding operations, and spark shields may be required on equipment. Be sure to have 10 feet of clearance, a 46”round point shovel, and a backpump water-type fire extinguisher ready to use.
  • Keep a cell phone nearby and call 911immediately in case of a fire.

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