Wildfire season is upon us.
With the build up of dry vegetation in the summer heat, along with hot, dry winds, fueling these fires, it’s extremely dangerous and challenging for firefighters to control, according to fire officials.
“As the temperatures will begin to heat up and our risk for brush fires dangerously increases, there’s an abundance of fine fuels and grasses that are ready to burn,” L.A. County Fire Department Chief Deputy of Emergency Operations David Richardson said. “The sun will dry out all the vegetation and increase the potential of damaging fires.”
Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia agreed, adding that it’s a cycle that happens every year, where the brush is drying and losing its moisture.
Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, wildfires will always be a natural part of our lives, and we are no stranger to wildland activity.
That being said, both Richardson and Garcia urge SCV residents to be prepared, and create your own personal wildfire action plan.
“Our department, along with our partner agencies, we’re always prepared to quickly respond to contain wildfires, utilizing our air and ground resources, but the bottom line is (that) your efforts within all the communities we serve and your cooperation will help minimize fire activity,” Richardson added. “Your preparation and prevention go hand-in-hand with what we provide within the region.
“Fires don’t know jurisdictional boundaries, so we work closely with our partners, like L.A. County Fire,” Garcia added.
The L.A. County Fire Department recently updated the Ready! Set! Go! Playbook, which not only helps you create your own wildfire preparation and evacuation plan, but also gives tips on how to protect your home from a destructive wildfire.
The first step in preparing for wildfire season is increasing your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire, as its chances of survival rely on the materials it’s constructed of and the quality of the “defensible space” surrounding it.
This can be done by creating a buffer between your home and surrounding native landscape, like brush that can easily ignite a fire.
“A lot of times folks do their defensible space clearance early in the year, and that effort needs a refresh throughout the fire season, because leaves fall on the roof, sometimes weeds and grass start to grow out,” Garcia said. “When a wildfire visits your neighborhood like that, it’s a good reminder not only to prevent, but also to go out, look and see if your home is as hardened as it could be.”
Now it’s time to create a wildfire action plan with your family, ensuring each member is prepared well in advance of any danger.
This includes steps like:
Creating a family communication plan with a list of important phone numbers;
Assembling an emergency supply kit that includes things like nonperishable food and water, a flashlight and first aid kit;
Making a list of things to grab, such as prescriptions, important documents and family photos;
And designating an emergency meeting spot.
Fire officials strongly urge residents to take action immediately when wildfire strikes, which not only keeps you out of harm’s way, but also keeps roads clear of congestion so firefighters can easily access the area.
Have a ‘Plan B’
As stay-at-home restrictions remain in place, ANF fire officials have been seeing a lot of crowds at popular recreation areas.
“We’re seeing really, really high concentrations (of people), and obviously with the covid situation, that presents some challenges, but it also challenges us to get emergency responses into those areas,” Garcia added. “We’ve had a lot of lost hikers, injuries, vehicle accidents and then we’ve had a lot of fires. And with those popular recreation areas, those crowds make it very difficult to get in and get out of the narrow, canyon roads.”
Garcia doesn’t want to discourage people from visiting the forest, but instead asks they have a couple of backup plans if their favorite spots are crowded.
“I welcome folks to call our visitors center and offices to plan some alternatives that would lend themselves to the type of visitor experience they’re looking for, but maybe are not as crowded,” Garcia added.
“A lot of homeowners are near and around the Angeles National Forest use the forest for recreation, but also their proximity (allows them to be) the eyes and ears sometimes, so we definitely ask folks to be vigilant,” Garcia added.
Though lately that has been for fireworks, as Fourth of July just passed, this also includes things like barbecues and campfires, which Garcia said become very dangerous at this time of year.
“Visitors are restricted to barbecues (and campfires) only in developed sites,” Garcia added. “Those areas are designed to contain a fire. They’ve had hazard reduction and defensible space around them.”
One Less Spark — One Less Wildfire, a campaign created by CalFire, highlights the dangers these campfires or barbecues can have.
“Every fire starts with just one spark, with one ember, so whether that’s people towing vehicles that are dragging chains, or a barbecue, it creates an ember,” Garcia said. “And it’s just that one spark that’s literally in the wrong place in terms of Chaparral, brush, grass, that’s all it takes. And once it gets going, it’s amazing how difficult it is to stop.”
For more information on Ready! Set! Go!, visit fire.lacounty.gov/rsg.