Thursday, July 19, 2012
With wildfires ravaging parts of Colorado and the Western states, San Diego Fire Department officials are concerned a similar situation could occur here.
Looking toward late summer and early fall, the National Weather Service is predicting above average temperatures and near average precipitation, which means a mixture of high heat, windy conditions and dry brush. A perfect combination for wildfires.
Because of a dry winter and spring, brush in the county can very easily perpetuate a fire, according to meteorologist Roger Pierce. He says with Santa Ana winds, homes that are far away from an initial brush fire may still be at risk.
“That is one of the terrible things of the Santa Ana winds, that they actually do bring that, not only very dry air and very warm air, but they potentially could blow debris that’s on fire further down stream,” he said.
Fire Chief Javier Mainar said in order to avoid a bad fire season, homeowners should take necessary precautions to protect their property. He said the best thing residents can do is to create 100 feet of defensible space around their house by trimming down brush.
“What that does, it slows the spread of the fire as it’s coming toward you and it also provides the firefighters a safety zone from which to protect your house,” Mainar said.
Avoiding using metal-bladed tools that can spark if struck against rocks and keeping branches 10 feet away from a chimney are other suggestions to prevent unwanted fires.
He said this year California has seen twice as many fires as normal, with twice as many acres burned. Families that follow the plan of, “Ready, Set, Go,” by putting together important documents and medication, getting ready to evacuate and evacuating once ordered, will be at an advantage.
Mainar also said the public needs to stay informed and team with firefighters.
“Trying to get out into the community to say, ‘if you want us to be effective, and you want us to save your home, you have to partner with us,’ so we try to educate the public as to the many things they can do to prevent wildfires from damaging their homes,” he said.
The National Weather Service is monitoring early conditions for “El Niño,” which could mean much needed rain in the winter. However, this is a double-edged sword because too much rain could damage areas that were affected by brushfires.
“We could have an early onset of the wet season, which would be good to help cut back on the fire weather potential, but sometimes El Niño gets carried away and we get far more rainfall than we want and end up with flooding issues as well,” Pierce said.
For more fire safety tips, visit any San Diego County Fire Department website.