The Santa Clarita Valley is no stranger to fires, and when the temperature rises, so does the risk for fires.
Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said temperatures ranged from 97 to 100 degrees across Santa Clarita Valley on Sunday, when two fires broke out.
“The forecast for the climate for the next three months has us at a 50% chance that we’ll have higher temperatures than normal, so we’re definitely expecting this to be a hotter summer,” she said. “Hot weather is a bad sign for fires, and part of that is going to be due to the offshore winds, which tend to be drier, push the temperature up quickly and bring strong, gusty winds — which are the last thing you want if there’s a fire risk.”
The Los Angeles County Fire Department urges residents to follow their “Ready, Set, Go!” wildfire action plan to help limit the loss of life and property in the event of a wildfire.
“Preparation begins before the fire starts, and the ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ program is a really effective tool to help homeowners be prepared when fire season starts,” said Capt. Tony Imbrenda, public information officer with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “We get a lot of fires in Santa Clarita, which is really the beginning of where the weather is first affecting the rest of L.A. County, and it gets worse as it goes south.”
The first portion of this plan focuses on limiting potential property damage to your home. According to the Fire Department’s website and its “Ready, Set, Go!” guidebook, homeowners should focus on ensuring that their homes are defensible, meaning all dry brush and branches are cleared from at least 100 feet of buildings, in compliance with county requirements. This creates an area in which firefighters can easily operate during a fire.
Homeowners can also create “hardened” homes that are more resistant to burning by replacing roof shingles with fireproof ones and ensuring that all modifications and remodeling done to the home are completed using fireproof materials.
Be sure to clear leaves, branches or other combustible material from near vents, gutters and other areas of the house, where hot embers may reach. Another good measure, according to the guide, is to invest in a residential fire sprinkler system.
Assemble an emergency kit with important supplies and valuables, including documents and computers, cash, flashlights, chargers and medication for yourselves and your pets. It is also a good idea to have a kit stored in every vehicle.
“Your ‘go bag’ should be packed to allow you to survive away from your home for about a week,” Imbrenda said. “You should always keep updating that and make sure you have enough food, hydration, medication, hygiene items and things like a radio.”
It is also important to have multiple escape routes and planned meeting locations so that if one route becomes blocked, your family will know how to react ahead of time.
If a fire does break out, act quickly and prepare to leave. This is the time to retrieve prepared emergency kits and valuables and to store valuables in a fireproof safe. The guide recommends backing one’s vehicle into the driveway with the hood facing the street, with the windows closed, to make leaving quicker and easier.
Next, remove flammable items from around your house, including outdoor furniture, decorations, plants and firewood.
As soon as you and your family are prepared to leave, do it. Where in previous years, the Fire Department has advised that residents wait until directed to evacuate, newer guidelines suggest people should leave as early as possible to avoid being caught in congested roads, smoke and fast-moving fires.
Imbrenda said staying informed is essential to safety during a fire. He advised people to continuously check the county Fire Department Twitter page @LACoFDPIO, local news websites and AM radio stations.
“One of the most important things you can do is to monitor local news stations,” Imbrenda said. “These stations really serve as a disaster information disseminator for us. Like in the Woolsey Fire, if there are widespread failures of cellular phone systems, it’s important to have an AM radio to get the most up-to-date information because they follow our Twitter feed very closely.”
It is important to remain calm and think clearly in the face of fire danger. While many people may feel the desire to stay and help defend their homes from the fire, firefighters can work much more effectively if they do not need to worry about civilians in danger. According to the guide, many people who originally decided to stay and defend their homes change their minds as the danger closes in, leading to more road congestion as they try to flee at the last minute.
“This does happen a lot, and the problem is that people think they can tolerate these heat conditions, but when situations deteriorate they realize they can’t,” Imbrenda said. “This impairs our ability to do our jobs because this is when they end up in trouble, and we have to focus on evacuations rather than combating the fire.”
Before evacuating, the Fire Department suggests residents check that they have the six “P’s”:
- People and pets
- Papers, phone numbers and important documents
- Prescriptions and eyeglasses
- Pictures and other irreplaceable items
- Personal computers and hard drives
- Plastic (credit cards) and cash
To learn more about the “Ready, Set, Go!” plan visit fire.lacounty.gov/ready-set-go.pdf.