After several fires in the Santa Clarita Valley this past week, everyone from utility representatives to fire officials to meteorologists is reminding residents that, due to unusually dry weather during fire season, they should have their Ready! Set! Go! plans ready to go.
A big part of the problem: The Santa Clarita Valley and, largely the Southern California region, have experienced an extreme absence of precipitation over the last year, according to officials at the National Weather Service.
“Our vegetation is already drying as we speak, and it’s going to continue to dry though the summer,” said Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We’re off to a drier start than normal, and now we’re talking about water conservation.”
“When we start to see the Santa Ana Winds in September, October, November … the right weather pattern with warm and dry conditions with gusty winds, we’ll have the right atmosphere for fires.”
Earlier this year, fire experts at Southern California Edison had projected that 2021, due to this extremely dry vegetation, could become one of the worst years for brush fires to date, as indicated by a number of brush fires cropping up weeks earlier than they normally do.
“(It’s) basically an indication that the vegetation is now becoming more receptive to fire, the grasses are curing, they’re drying out,” said Tom Rolinski a fire scientist with SoCal Edison, earlier this year. “And once we into the next couple of weeks here, where the grasses are fully dried out, when we get those warmer drier days, particularly in the inland areas like Santa Clarita, we’re going to see larger fires occurring here.”
The Burbank Airport weather station has reported approximately 5 inches of precipitation, according to the readings from Oct. 1 of last year to today, when the normal amount would be approximately 14 inches, Hall said.
Downtown Los Angeles is reporting 8 inches below normal, and the Fort Tejon-area weather station is roughly 10-inch deficit in precipitation.
The National Weather Service does not specifically say whether it’s going to be a “bad weather season,” because the factors playing into that largely depend on variable weather patterns, Hall said. However, the conditions in California do imply people should be ready.
“I’m 45 years old, and I’ve lived in California all but six years,” said Hall. “You have to always be ready for fire. Have your vegetation trimmed back home, you have to make sure that you have any documents that you need to evacuate to have your evacuation kit ready to go, and all that stuff.”
For the past few years, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has been distributing information about wildfires and wildfire preparedness through their Ready! Set! Go! program.
The program is designed to provide you with “critical information on creating defensible space around your home, retrofitting your home with fire-resistant materials, and preparing you to safely evacuate well ahead of a wildfire.”
For more information about Ready! Set! Go!, visit https://fire.lacounty.gov/rsg/.