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Fire Officials Warn SD Residents To Prepare For Wildfires, Despite Recent Rainfall

— As the temperature begins to rise in San Diego, so does the wildfire danger. After several years of drought, San Diego is soaking with relief, but fire officials are warning residents to prepare now because, once summer arrives, there will be more fuel to burn.

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Aired 5/25/10

As the temperature begins to rise in San Diego, so does the wildfire danger. After several years of drought, San Diego is soaking with relief, but fire officials are warning residents to prepare now because, once summer arrives, there will be more fuel to burn.

US forestry firefighter pulls a hose to a burning home in Deerhorn Valley as the Harris Fire continues growing beyond 70,000 acres on October 24, 2007 near Jamul, California.
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Above: US forestry firefighter pulls a hose to a burning home in Deerhorn Valley as the Harris Fire continues growing beyond 70,000 acres on October 24, 2007 near Jamul, California.

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Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire Department, said the recent rainfall is good for moisturizing the vegetation, but it has also sprouted flammable grasses and weeds.

“When we don’t have rain, then there’s drought conditions and dryness. And as we’ve seen in the past, vegetation dries, it dies and becomes a fire hazard,” Luque explained.

Luque said there’s also high fire danger when we do have rain. “It causes grass to grow, vegetation to grow and becomes an additional fire hazard than what’s already there,” he said.

Luque said residents should prepare for wildfires now, before the Santa Ana winds return this summer and fall. He said homeowners should clear 100 feet of defensible space around their properties.

“There’s no amount of resources that are going to stop a fire like the Witch Fire of 2007 or the Cedar Fire of 2003. The best defense is prevention,” he said.

Rick Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute, said residents should think twice before clearing away native plants and shrubs when preparing for fire season. Halsey said when you pull out those native plants, it leaves more room for invasive and flammable weeds and grasses to sprout, “and that’s what creates timber box conditions,” warned Halsey.

“Once you improperly clear landscape, you cause non-native weeds to show up, which grow every year and they create an incredibly flammable fuel bed,” said Halsey. “So sometimes in the preparation to try to reduce fire risk, people actually increase it.”

Halsey says residents should prepare for wildfires by clearing away debris and furniture from their homes, including patio furniture, barbecues and wood piles.

For more information on wildfire preparedness, visit www.readyforwildfire.org.

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