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Firefighters discuss hazards and insect pests in this season of drought

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) Spokesman Glenn Barley discussed fire hazards at a recent Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) meeting. Half a dozen Cal Fire personnel were in attendance, as well as Division Chief Kathleen Opliger from San Bernardino County Fire Department. The county agency recently took over management of Crest Forest Fire Department.

Kathleen Opliger and Glenn Barley at MAC meeting
Rhea Frances Tetley

Barley addressed issue arising from the extremely dry conditions in the mountains, as well as home safety. He pointed out that zero-clearance fireplaces, such as the kind that have gas burners, cannot be used to burn wood. In fact, two recent house fires were caused by burning wood in zero-clearance fireplaces, cracking the rear wall and setting the inside of the wall on fire. Often such fires are not detected until the attic area is completely involved.

In response to the drought and dry conditions, Cal Fire has increased staffing in the red-flag areas, which include a large swath of Los Angeles County, as well as the San Bernardino Mountains. Cal Fire addresses the current red flag warning on their web site:

Local fire stations will hoist red flags when alerts are called.

On the positive side, the extremely cold weather of recent weeks has served to reduce the population of insect pests. Barley strongly advised that residents acquire their firewood locally, in order to avoid importing such pests. Barley discussed two insect pests in particular: the goldspotted oak borer, which prefers black oak; and the polyphagous shot hole borer, which prefers avocado trees but will attack many different tree species. Both of these pests are beetles that lay eggs, producing larvae with bore into tree trunks. The holes that they create will cut off the circulation of sap inside the wood, causing the tree to die.

Information about those invasive beetles is available at::

goldspotted oak borer

polyphagous shot hole borer

Spokesperson Janet Nelsen presented Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s view that the state fire tax, which has been enforced for the past two years, is unconstitutional and should be repealed. The personnel from Cal Fire and the county fire service are not at liberty to state their personal views on the matter.


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