Wildfire Ready: Prepare and be aware


Utility workers cut down trees to avoid downing of power lines during Santa Ana winds


Utility workers cut down trees to avoid downing of power lines during Santa Ana winds

It’s not a matter of when, it’s a matter of where. The heat wave is over, but the peak of wildfire season is here. Every year, residents in California are urged to prepare for potential fires by not having excess debris around their homes or businesses, have emergency evacuation plans ready to go, and have a kit ready with all important documents for family members and pets. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says, “71% of Americans have an escape plan, while only 47% of them practice it.”  The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department encourages us to do better by listing a guide on its website called “Ready, Set, Go!” to help advise the public on many safety measures. 

October is typically one of the warmer months in San Diego County every year. Because of the higher temperatures, there is a big threat of wildfires across the region. Depending on the severity of the weather, it often extends through November and potentially the end of the year (the deadly “Camp Fire”, the state’s most destructive fire in recorded history, started in Butte County last November). Fire officials say fire season is actually considered to be year-round. However, weather conditions during the fall months are what ignite more blazes, in comparison to the rest of the year. Experts often refer to two separate fire seasons in California: summer wildfires fed by heat and fall wildfires driven by winds.

Another factor that increases wildfires are Santa Ana winds. According to Weather.com, Santa Ana winds are strong winds that blast through parts of Southern California. They are most common from October through March, but can occur anytime. Last week, a red flag warning was in effect due to Santa Ana winds and low humidity.

This year’s wildfire season got off to a slow start, but has since forced many evacuations over the past couple of months. In September, the Tenaja Fire broke out in Riverside County. It prompted the communities of Murrieta and Temecula to be on high alert as the blaze moved inland over a span of 10 days. More than 1,900 acres of hillsides and dry brush were charred. Investigators believed the cause of the fire was due to a lightning strike, but it has not yet been determined. Fortunately, only two structures were damaged and only three injuries were reported. 

As claimed by veteran meteorologists, conditions are currently better, compared to this time last year. However, we are not in the clear. The peak is just starting; large fires can still occur. 


So how is everyone preparing for a potentially mild wildfire season?


California utilities are shutting off power to more than 700,000 customers to try to prevent wildfires ignited by electrical equipment. Last week, residents in eight Northern California counties were forced to go without power for most of the day. The power cutoffs have since expanded statewide. Both SoCal Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric have joined the prevention efforts. On Oct. 9, San Diego Gas & Electric announced plans to schedule “Public Safety shut offs” due to a fire weather watch and incoming Santa Ana winds. The company has unveiled new fire fighting equipment including the new UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter, which will be available for usage 365 days a year. SDG&E’s website says, “It holds 850 gallons of water and refills in 45 seconds.” They have also hosted many community resource fairs including many events last week for Fire Prevention Week. During the week, many events were held to increase fire safety awareness, both inside and outside of the home. Capt. Micah Doan of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department says many fires start in the home, especially in the kitchen. He notes to not walk away when cooking,not to leave burning candles unattended, and to avoid wearing loose articles of clothing around flames. Doan urges the public to test smoke detectors in their homes or businesses every month. It is also important to not carelessly toss cigarettes or have any type of fire burning, as these are common causes of wildfires during these months. 


Fire season is upon us. Make sure you have a plan to get out safely during an emergency. Be sure to evacuate when told the first time, and have a route in mind.