||The in basket: Christina Stewart asks, “Can
anyone tell me if the county is out in their area actively mowing
the sides of the road? With the fire danger off the charts,
shouldn’t (they be) mowing down all the dry grass and weeds next to
the county roads? I just drove in to work today up Columbia Street
(Port Gamble-Suquamish Rd.) and then into Poulsbo on Lincoln. The
grass is taller than most vehicles in some areas. Yesterday I was
in the Kingston area, same issue. We are creating our own potential
safety problem! The county should be mowing all day everyday.”
The out basket: Actually, mowing can start grass fires as well
as prevent them, and leave cut grass slightly more likely to
Practices vary among jurisdictions, but since Christina asks
about the North Kitsap area, I’ve limited my inquiries to Kitsap
County, the state and Poulsbo.
I asked their normal practices and whether the heat and lack of
rain has changed them this year.
Jacques Dean, road superintendent for the county, said on July
7″, “We have not made any changes to our vegetation management
program. Our mower in the north end has been unavailable due to
mechanical problems, which has put us behind schedule there.
We were waiting for parts to make repairs. It is back in operation
now. We do mow all day, every day during the growing season
when equipment is available.
“Our vegetation mowers operate five days a week over eight
months per year (vegetation is generally dormant November through
February). With this approach we have been able to mow 1,900
shoulder miles of roadway each year, or approximately 950
centerline miles. We are able to mow most, if not all of our
roadways at least once per year. It should also be noted that
our crews apply vegetation herbicides to approximately 840 shoulder
miles of roadway each year, which assists in keeping vegetation in
Logistically, and realistically, we cannot address all of our
roadways simultaneously, specifically during the peak of the
growing season. We have to take a systematic approach to our
vegetation management program, considering the overall scope of
work, available schedule, resource availability, roadway level of
service, types of vegetation, geographic location/proximity,
etc. Our crews are working hard to ensure that our roadways
are safe, in good condition, and aesthetically pleasing. They
are doing the best possible job.”
Claudia Bingham Baker, state highway spokesman here, said, “When
conditions get extremely dry we stop most mowing activities. This
talks about our efforts to reduce the risk of fires.”
That site says, in part, “Every year, we do most of our mowing
in early spring or late fall to avoid the hot, dry summer season.
We also leave bare ground barriers alongside roadways in many cases
to provide extra protection against sparks and other fire risks.
This year is no different.
“That said, some of our maintenance work can’t wait, often
because to do so would comprise motorist safety. And work like
mowing, grinding or welding carry some inherent risks of sparks
that could lead to a fire.
That’s why whenever we complete maintenance work during the dry
season we take several precautions. That includes having water and
tools on site to immediately extinguish any sparks or fires that
start due to our work.
We also limit our maintenance work during the hottest part of
the day. Work is done from 8 p.m. to 1 p.m., when it’s more humid
and less likely for a fire to start. If weather conditions are
particularly severe, everything except emergency work is
Dan Wilson, head of Poulsbo Public Works, says he isn’t sure
that Christina got into the city, but if she did, he thinks she
would have found the city’s shoulders well tended by their mostly
hand-done streetside brush clearing.