No cows mean big fire danger

Posted at 1:00 PM, Apr 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 16:00:43-04

The Kern County Fire Chief said we're in for a rough summer, and it's in part, because of bovine.

With the past four years of drought, cattle ranchers have been slashing their numbers and moving their cows to other areas, with better grass.

"Before the drought I was running about 350 mother cows. Now I'm running a little more than 200... about a third decrease," Cattle Rancher and Second Vice President of the California Cattleman's Association Jack Lavers said.

Lavers said fellow ranchers are shipping cows to Nevada, Oregon and all the way to Montana. This lack of cows locally, allows the hilly areas to grow tall grass.

"I mean we can see grass anywhere from knee high, a couple feet, to when it's being grazed properly we're going to see ankle depth," Lavers said.

That means the difference between a hot burning, difficult to contain fire and one that firefighters can get control of quickly.

"When we cut the fire breaks with our hand crews, they're going to have to make wider fuel breaks because the fuel is taller, so it generates more heat, more fire," Fire Chief Brian Marshall said.

Marshall continued, saying that takes longer to do which means a fire will burn longer. This takes more resources, like man power and water, which means more money.

As a preventative measure, Kern County fire crews go out, "with our bulldozers, our graters, our plows, and we put in fire breaks along the highways in the wild land areas. That way if hot exhaust or a cigarette is thrown out of a window, if we do get a wild land fire, we already have a break in that will stop the fire [from spreading]" Marshall said.

Marshall said the recent rain in the mountains, while good for the parched region, caused that grass to grow even more and is now a fire danger.