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Smoke to rise all week from tinder-dry American River Parkway

Controlled burns meant to reduce fuels in American River Parkway

Motorists on the Capital City Freeway, Highway 160 or residents of the Woodlake neighborhood might see some smoke this week as firefighters burn high grass in a controlled manner to lessen the danger of wildfires later this summer.
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Motorists on the Capital City Freeway, Highway 160 or residents of the Woodlake neighborhood might see some smoke this week as firefighters burn high grass in a controlled manner to lessen the danger of wildfires later this summer.

Capital City Freeway and Highway 160 drivers and residents of the Woodlake neighborhood probably will see smoke this week as firefighters burn high grass on the American River Parkway to lessen the danger of wildfires later this summer.

The permit obtained by firefighters allows controlled burns on the parkway between 9 a.m. and noon each weekday through Friday.

The wet winter has produced tall, dense fields of grass. A month of dry weather turned the grass brown.

Firefighters want to keep control of the blazes. Previously, fires have spread into the tree canopy on the parkway, killing mature cottonwoods and charring elderberry bushes.

Fire crews will burn grass when winds and the temperatures are low – and humidity high – to prevent the spread of fire from prescribed burn areas. If winds or air quality change, burns will be canceled.

The burns on 28 acres will occur south of Highway 160 and west of Interstate 80 – roughly between the area’s Costco store and the American River.

In addition to burning, the fire department is using herbicides, mowing, soil discs and munching goats and sheep to keep dried vegetation from getting too thick.

The fire department has worked over the past several months with county officials, park rangers, utility representatives and environmental groups to plan the controlled burn.

“We will not be burning in the Cal Expo area because the fuels are just too tall,” said Sacramento Fire Department spokesman firefighter-paramedic Chris Harvey. “They have livestock over there. In the areas where we are burning, the fuels are less than head-high in most places, which is the benchmark for whether it is safe to burn. Once they get higher than a human they can just get too out of control.”

The bicycle trail will not be closed. However, bicyclists may need to dismount and walk near some fire equipment.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District firefighters will also conduct controlled burns this week at the Dry Creek Regional Park in Rio Linda and Rio Linda Boulevard near Crystal Road. The burns will cover about 65 acres.

The drought is over, but that doesn't mean the end of calamity for Northern California – the abundance of rain and snow could produce more wildfires and drownings, officials say.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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