By Jason KUROSU
A heat wave that is expected to reach triple digit temperatures has also caused Angeles National Forest authorities to increase their Fire Danger Level to “very high,” prompting concerns about health and the risk of fire. Along with the increased heat, a lack of humidity is another factor that could contribute to potential higher risk of fire.
However, according to Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Quvondo Johnson, fire season is not restricted to summer or other high temperature periods, especially in a dry foothill region known for increased fire risks, as illustrated by the 2009 Station Fire.
“Fire season is year round in that area,” said Johnson.
He described the characteristics of the foothills as meeting the criteria of the “trifecta of increased fires.” That trifecta includes “low humidity, high temperatures and high winds.”
Johnson suggested that residents consult the Fire Department’s “Ready, Set, Go” Fire Action Plan, available to read on L.A. County Fire’s website.
“Ready” indicates that residents should create a “defensible space around their homes.” A home that has a high potential for surviving a wildfire is one that has space between itself and potential fire hazards as well as having a barrier of high moisture plants between the home and potential fire areas like brush. The high moisture plants, which should be located between 100 to 200 feet from the house, are intended to mitigate any approaching fires by reducing its sources of fuel. A defensible home is also one that is as free as possible of flammable or combustible materials.
“Set” indicates that residents should be set with what they need when they leave a fire area. Residents, especially large families, should have a fire action plan in place so that they are not left scrambling during an emergency. This plan may include escape routes, a designated meeting location after escaping the fire area, and anything else necessary to limit danger during a fire such as shutting off gas mains and locating fire extinguishers.
Lastly, “go” means just what it implies – to leave the fire area as quickly as possible. But it also means to do so with the right equipment and whatever is considered a necessity, whether it be emergency materials like food and water or personal items such as computers and credit cards which contain personal information that one could ill afford to lose.
Regarding the area of the foothills affected by the Station Fire, Johnson says that plant life should be fully grown in some areas and making good progress in others. However, there has also not been a lot of rain, which Johnson says can be both good and bad.
“Good because not a lot of vegetation means less fuel for a potential fire,” he said. “It’s also bad, of course, because the area remains very dry.”
The USDA Forest Service’s raising of the fire danger level to “very high” is in direct relation to these dry conditions.
According to a press release from the Forest Service, this new fire level will not open up many new restrictions in Angeles National Forest.
The release states, “Despite the change, there are no new campfire restrictions.” Open wood fires, charcoal fires, propane stoves and grills will all be permitted in certain approved areas and in some cases, with a valid California Campfire Permit.