Less than a month into the summer fire season, Cal Fire Tuolumne Calaveras Unit officials say they have fought 42 wildland fires totalling 236 acres — compared to 12,110 acres and 35 wildland fires from the same time frame last year.

Melinda Shoff and Emily Kilgore, public information officers with Cal Fire TCU, warned that despite the current trend, catastrophic fires could occur in California at any time during the year.

“Community members still need to do their due diligence. As the summer progresses temperatures rise and fuels dry out,” they said in an email.

They said many of the fires this season were caused by equipment use or illegal debris burning. They said the term “fire season” was no longer preferred because of the year-around danger of wildfires. What is referred to as the summer preparedness staffing period began on June 17, they said.

In the past days, Cal Fire TCU has dealt with multiple small vegetation fires near North Fork Road and Merrill Springs Road in Long Barn, at Highway 12 and Toreno Road in Burson and a seven-acre fire in Waterford.

In the past week, three fires have sprung up near New Melones Reservoir.

Shoff and Kilgore said fires at New Melones Reservoir were not uncommon, and there did not appear to be any commonality in causes among fires that occurred near the shore in the past week.

On Thursday morning at about 5:15 a.m., a quarter-acre spot fire at the Buck Brush Day-use area in Calaveras County along New Melones Reservoir was caused by a bird that flew into power lines, they said.

Buck Brush Day Use Area is located north of the Angels Creek Boat Launch.

Only grass was burned and there were no reports of injuries. Five engines responded and Altaville Melones Fire Protection District responded to assist, they said.

The evening before, a fire ignited at the Heron Point day use area near Reynolds Ferry Road and Highway 49 in Tuttletown on the Tuolumne County side of the reservoir.

The cause of the fire was undetermined, they said, and prompted response from an air attack, two air tankers, a helicopter, one dozer, one handcrew, seven engines and a water tender from Tuolumne County Fire and Cal Fire.

The fire was reported at 6 p.m. and burned two acres of grass and oak savanna.

Another fire on the backside of New Melones at Woodward point in Stanislaus County caused a 0.5 acre burn, they said.

The burned acreage total is down due to larger fires that occurred in the proximity of the Tuolumne Calaveras Unit last year.

The Waverly Fire ignited in San Joaquin County on June 29 and spread into the west side of Calaveras County near Milton. By the time it was extinguished, it had burned 12,300 acres.

Also last year the Flat Fire burned 163 acres in south Tuolumne County and the Horse Fire burned 80 acres in Calaveras County. Both ignited on June 24, according to Cal Fire.

Statewide as of July 7, the acreage of fires have also trended down. So far this year Cal Fire has responded to 2,108 fires for 19,144 acres burned. In the same time period for last year, Cal Fire had responded to 2,893 fires for 149,059 acres.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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