Fire officials are reminding people to be cautious when using mowers and power tools outdoors in dry vegetation and to check extension cords following two equipment-related fires in El Dorado County last weekend.
A home and an outbuilding were destroyed Saturday afternoon in the Placerville area when a person mowing tall dry weeds caused a wildfire that quickly spread to the structures, according to news release from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Amador-El Dorado-Sacramento Unit. Residents of the home escaped with only the clothes they were wearing. Some of the family's pets perished in the fire.
A few hours earlier, a Swansboro family lost their shed, boat, horse trailer and Jeep when an extension cord used to power an electric fence caused a fire, officials said.
Cal Fire offers several fire prevention tips:
Do not use gas-powered equipment after 10 a.m. or before 7 p.m. High summer temperatures and low humidity combined with very dry vegetation can spell disaster. If it is uncomfortably hot outside, it is dangerous to use gas-powered equipment or any equipment that can cause a spark.
Make sure your mower is well maintained. Spark arresters should be in place and cleared of any buildup. Mowers are designed to cut green materials. Cutting dry weeds may cause the chaff to build up on the mow deck and catch fire.
Weed cutters are better designed to cut dry vegetation, but a weed cutter with a metal blade can cause a fire if it hits a rock or similar object. A weed cutter with a plastic string is a safer choice.
Let all equipment cool down before refueling. Not only can the equipment catch fire, the gas fumes can ignite and cause a person to catch fire. Wear only cotton or other natural fibers when working with such equipment. If your clothing does catch fire, don't run, but instead drop to the ground in an area clear of flammable vegetation, cover your face with your hands, and roll back and forth until the fire is completely out. Then call 911 and have paramedics check you, as burns can be deceiving and may not show up for hours.
If you use extension cords outside, make sure that they are in good condition and are not in an area where they can be stepped on, run over, or otherwise compromised.
For more fire and life safety information, see the website at www.ReadyforWildfire.org, or call Cal Fire at (530) 644-2345.