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Fire Protection

Approximately six fires occur at Brooktrails per year. To date they have been minor and
suppressed without difficulty by CDF and Brooktrails fire fighting crews (Tolbert, 2004).
While it is impossible to predict when a major wildfire might occur in the Greenbelt, the combination
of weather, tanoak buildup, and increasing fuel load suggests that it is not a question of "if" there
will be a wildfire, but "when."

• • The prospect of a stand replacing fire (one that kills mature trees) at Brooktrails is as high
as 70 percent in the next 50 years, according to CDF Fire Captain Bill Baxter.

• • Historical fire patterns suggest the most likely location of a wildfire to occur is in the vicinity
of the Burbeck Creek watershed, which lies west of Ridge Road, and which is adjacent to
the Skunk Train railroad track.

• • A crown fire would travel at the rate of approximately 4 miles per hour. This would mean
that residents threatened by the fire would have approximately 40 minutes to evacuate -
the amount of time for the fire to travel from railroad to the ridge.

Among the many worthwhile points in the discussion on fire prevention at the three Greenbelt
management plan meetings, the following were particularly noteworthy:

• • Given the overgrown condition of the roads in the Greenbelt Area, Brooktrails Fire Chief
Daryl Schoeppner has stated that he could not commit the Brooktrails fire crew and
equipment to fight a fire in the Greenbelt interior, as it could place the crew at serious

• • Improving roads within the Greenbelt will provide better access for fighting fires, but also
increases human activity, which may increase the potential for fire.

• • CDF/other fire fighting units would be unlikely to stop a major forest fire in the Greenbelt
Area, but would focus on directing it through the Area.

• • CDF crews may not be available to fight a wildfire at Brooktrails during the height of the
fire season, as they are often committed elsewhere in the state. Some back-up exists
with other local fire fighting units.

• • It was noted that Brooktrails currently has a problem legally enforcing the abatement of
private lots to reduce fire hazard, which is a key component in the overall fire prevention
program in the District and is linked to what needs to occur in the Greenbelt Area.
Further, there also appears to be little control over the amount of clearing that occurs by
private landowners. This is a concern of residents who wish to maintain the scenic
quality of their neighborhoods.

Existing/Past Fire Prevention Activities in the Greenbelt Area

Efforts to date to create adequate defensible spaces along roads and homes adjacent to the
Greenbelt Area have been important, but inadequate to the task. Fuel breaks that were cut in the
1980s by CDF crews, e.g., along Blue Lake and Terrace Roads have been reoccupied by tanoak,
demonstrating the need to maintain fuel breaks regularly (at least every five years).

One of the most important considerations in planning the creation of fuel breaks is the amount of
labor involved in their establishment, as the following information illustrates:

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