Last modified on Oct 19, 2018

Winton Fire

California is prone to dry lightning in the late summer months. Lightning-caused fires can cost taxpayers millions of dollars because lightning often ignites multiple fires at one time in remote mountainous areas.

Lightning started the Winton Fire outside of the Stanislaus National Forest in Calaveras County on September 9,1999. When fire crews responded to the call, they already knew that as many as 40 homes could be threatened if they were unable to quickly contain it.

The work of those crews was made easier because of logging and prescribed fire projects that had been done in 1996 by Sierra Pacific Industries. Due to reduced fuel on the northwestern side of the fire where a prescribed burn had been completed the flames burned at a much lower intensity and spread slower. In addition, the main road used by fire personnel to access the head of the fire ran through this treated area. This allowed fire crews safe access and an escape route should they need one. Because of these factors, the Winton Fire Incident Commander was able to concentrate crews and equipment on more actively burning areas of the fire.

While one home and 115 acres were burned, fire commanders estimated that 40 homes and 300 acres of timber were saved due to the ability of the crews to quickly contain the fire. This is an example of how pre-fire planning and treatment saves homes, resources and money. One of the major benefits of the pre-fire efforts taken in this area was improved firefighter safety. Crews were able to safely access the Winton Fire from the west due to the prescribed fire done earlier. It was not safe for crews to access the flames from any other side due to the high fire intensity in those areas.

The Winton Fire was contained on September 12.

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