- Author: Phil McRea, Sonoma County Master Gardener
- Contributor: Karen Giovannini, Agriculture Ombudsman, UCCE Sonoma
Many residents in Sonoma County live in or near fire danger. For those who do live in a high fire area, knowing what to do when conditions are ideal for a forest (or urban fire) is essential.
Red Flag Warning
- Sustained wind speeds averaging 15 mph or greater
- Relative humidity 25% or less
- Temperature over 75 degrees F
Fuel Moisture Index
The fuel moisture index is a tool used to understand fire potential. 10-hour fuel moisture also known as Dead Fuel Moisture; when fuel moisture is <30%, it is essentially considered dead. 10-hour fuel moisture applies to grasses and bushes up to 1 inch in diameter. Learn more at NOAA.
The US National Weather Service warning is to inform area fire fighters and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wild-land fire combustion. Cal Fire and local fire agencies all go on a high alert status under these conditions.
The Wind Cries...Santa Ana or Diablo?
The Santa Ana and Diablo winds occur throughout the year, but are extremely dangerous during dry periods (which, in Southern CA is practically year round). Santa Ana occurs in Southern CA, Diablo in the north. Winds come from the east from hot surfaces (deserts) and are compressed and speed up as they head towards the ocean. Learn more from SFSU. Check out current wind conditions at Windy.com.
Here are some things you can do when Red Flag Warnings are issued. State and local news agencies usually announce Red Flag Warning 24-48 hours in advance on TV and radio, so there is time to act on short-term fixes.
During Fire Season
- Make sure garden hoses are hooked up and ready to use with spray nozzles attached; best practice is to never leave a garden hose randomly piled up as it will always tangle – if you want it coiled, coil it in equal sized oval loops with each successive loop offset few inches in the same direction.
- All portable propane tanks (BBQ, smoker, etc.) should be turned off and moved away from your house.
- If you have a pool: in an emergency, a pressure washer can be used to pump water from your pool and should be left in an available location; fire fighters should have clear access to your pool.
- Decks should be cleared above and below of flammable objects.
- Gas cans – for lawn mowers, chippers, whatever – should be moved away from house or garage/barn.
- Cover firewood stacks next to house with a fire resistant cover.
- Make sure cell phones are charged and ready for alerts and within hearing at all times.
- Close exterior doors and windows. Leave doors unlocked. Leave lights on inside and outside of house.
- If you have a ladder, leave it available outside, next to the house, in case fire fighters need to access roof.
- Have all your evacuation supplies such as flashlights and a good portable radio ready to go.
- Make sure your cars have plenty of gas and are parked outside, or garage door is capable of manual operation and all capable family members know how to open it.
- If appropriate, shut off gas supply line at the meter.
- Make an evacuation plan and collect all necessary supplies.
- Clean gutters and roof debris regularly.
- Where possible, install mesh screening under decks to prevent burning material from blowing.
- Move firewood piles away from house.
- If you have a pool, research the special pump systems that are available for fire fighting.
- For more information obtain a free brochure: “Living with Fire in Sonoma County” from fire agencies of Sonoma County.
Learn more about disaster preparation and recovery on Disaster Recovery Resources./h3>/h3>/h2>/h3>/h3>/h2>
- Author: Karen Giovannini
The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (UCD SVM) is providing free egg contaminant testing for backyard chicken owners in the state of California.
Results will be shared individually with each owner, and cumulative results will be summarized and made available to the general public.
We are testing eggs for two different types of contaminants.
Fire Contaminant Testing
Heavy Metal Contaminant Testing
Due to observation of high environmental lead levels in parts of California, there is concern that backyard chickens are being exposed to a level that could pose a public health risk. UCD SVM is interested in testing eggs from these birds for various contaminants such as Pb, PCBs, and PBDEs.
Instructions for submitting eggs
If you are interested in submitting eggs, please drop off at UCCE Sonoma County or ship 2-6 eggs (6 eggs max) from your flock, with tissue around each egg, placed in an egg carton, and wrap (bubble), include information below, secure the carton and ship in a box with packing peanuts. See pictures below for examples of how to pack the eggs for shipping.
Requested information to include (or use attached form):
- Address where hens reside (Street name, City, Zip -- we do not need the number of the address)
- Number of hens in flock
- Date eggs were collected
- Length of time you have owned the chickens
- Age of chickens
- Year the house/building the chickens are kept by was built
- Optional: your email address to receive results
Drop off eggs at UCCE Sonoma County* or ship them to:
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
1 Shields Drive
Bldg VM3B Room 4007
Attn: Dr. Maurice Pitesky
Davis, CA 95616
If you would like assistance with shipping costs, please contact Anny Huang at the UCD SVM Cooperative Extension at firstname.lastname@example.org BEFORE shipping. We can generate a shipping label for you and email it to you to print and stick on your package.
If you have any other questions or comments, please contact Dr. Maurice Pitesky at the UCD SVM Cooperative Extension at email@example.com or 530-219-1407.
*UCCE Sonoma County office hours: M-F 8am-Noon, 1pm-4pm.
Packing eggs for shipping
Eggs are mailable in domestic mail subject to the following general conditions:
- They are individually cushioned.
- They are otherwise packed to withstand shocks encountered during normal Postal Service handling.
When you're shipping eggs, the USPS asks that you individually cushion each egg. Use bubble wrap to avoid breakage and shock-proof packaging material such as shredded paper to cushion the individually bubble-wrapped eggs. Pack your individual eggs closely but not too tightly.
See Free USPS Supplies for boxes./h2>/h2>
By Dr. Birgit Puschner, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and
Maurice Pitesky, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine-Cooperative Extension
In addition to all the destruction and inhalation of smoke associated with the recent fires in Northern California, one of the unfortunate legacies remaining are chemical contamination of land, soil and water. The wildfire debris can include household hazardous waste (e.g. batteries and other electronic waste, paints, flammable liquids), building material (e.g. stucco, sheetrock, joint compound, asbestos siding and pipe insulation), pesticides, and fire suppression chemicals that may have been used. For example, ash debris from the California wildfires from 2007 was found to contain heavy metals that could cause long term health effects with exposure at high levels.
Backyard chickens typically live off the soil and hence are at risk for exposure to some of the chemicals in the debris. Since backyard chickens are food animals with respect to egg and meat production, there is a risk that some of these substances may be ingested by chickens and deposited inside eggs which are then laid by the chickens.
Unfortunately, there is limited scientific data on this issue. To that point there are no controlled studies, to our knowledge, that have assessed whether many of these chemicals can be found in eggs following ingestion by chickens. In addition, withdrawal periods following exposure are also not understood.
What can you do?
The concern to human health is with respect to the consumption of eggs and poultry meat from chickens exposed to the above listed toxic debris as a result of the recent fires. Out of an abundance of caution: if you know or suspect that your birds were foraging in burnt areas, we recommend not eating eggs from those hens for the remainder of their life.
In addition, in order to better understand the chemical contamination of eggs from hens living in areas impacted by wildfires we encourage people in affected areas to submit eggs to UC Davis for testing. Testing costs will be free.
For submission, please mail up to 6 eggs overnight to the following address:
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Attn: Dr. Maurice Pitesky
1 Shields Drive
VM 3B Room 4007
Davis, CA 95616
Please include the following information:
- Contact information
- Address where birds are located
- Number of birds in your flock
- Author: Mimi M Enright
Air quality in Sonoma County has been significantly impacted by the fires that spread through the region. The full scope of the air contamination is still unknown, but likely includes high concentrations of likely carcinogens including heavy metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
There is limited research on the impact of smoke from a wildfire in a wildland urban interface on produce safety. UCCE Sonoma is partnering with Vanessa Raditz, who was working with community organizations on emergency food relief during the crisis, to develop a Citizen Science project to assess the impact of the air pollution from the wildfire on produce. During the crisis Vanessa, who has a Master's degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley, began quickly developing a partnership with members of the community and UCCE Sonoma to gather samples and seek funding for testing and education on this topic.
Master Gardeners and other concerned community members were trained to collect samples from local farms and gardens of washed and unwashed produce, each in triplicate, to determine if contaminants can be easily washed off produce, or whether it has been taken up in plant tissue. Volunteers focused on kale, collards, chard, and lettuce, as these leaves are directly exposed to air pollution. Vanessa scheduled volunteer training at Bayer Farm, Harvest for the Hungry and Petaluma Bounty, and samples were taken from 10/19-22. Time was of the essence to gather samples which are all being frozen. Now we turn to find partners to find funding for the testing and develop an educational outreach program when results are received.
Visit Disaster Recovery to learn more.