Wildfire Season: It Has Just Begun

Photo by Charly SHELTON
Crescenta Valley neighbors watched nervously as the Bobcat Fire approached the area causing smoke to blanket the valley.


On Oct. 8, Assemblymember Laura Friedman held a virtual town hall meeting regarding wildfires. She opened the meeting by talking about the present wildfires across the state as well as how the fire seasons have been “going on for longer and longer periods.” Friedman chairs the Natural Resource Committee.

“I see the urgent need to help all of us prepare for these increases in wildfire threat we are facing, not just individually but as communities,” she said.

Chief Dan Johnson with CAL FIRE Southern Region, which covers from Sacramento to the border of Mexico, also took part in the meeting.

“CAL FIRE folks are worn out,” he said of the firefighters battling the number of fires across the state.

He praised the mutual aid system consisting of fire departments that “share the burden” across the state. He added that none of the firefighting departments can battle the fires alone, that they work with partners that include counties, cities and state fire personnel.

“Not one of us can do this by ourselves,” he said. “It’s important to recognize our partners. We have over 15,000 firefighters on fire lines [as of Oct. 8].”

He added that, thus far in 2020, there have been a little over 4 million acres in the state burned.

“Which is unheard of … our largest season ever was right at 3 million [acres burned] and we have surpassed that [by] a million acres. The scary part of this is that we are far from over,” Johnson added. “We are just getting into the real peak of Southern California fire season.”

Johnson said the recent fire intensity is directly related to fuel moisture – the amount of moisture in fuel (vegetation) available to fires – and said the majority of fires are topography-driven. Though warm Santa Ana winds have not really been a part of the current equation the traditional fire season, which starts in October and runs through January, has just begun.

“So we are expecting this year to have a lot of challenges ahead,” he added.

One of the ways to prepare for future fires is for communities to organize a California Fire Safe Council, said panel guest Jay Lopez, a recently retired LA County Fire assistant chief and board member for the California Fire Safe Council. Lopez spent over three decades with LACoFD and had high praise for the mutual aid system.

“This mutual aid system has been something that keeps us in very good condition so we can respond properly,” Lopez said.

Locally, the Crescenta Valley Fire Safe Council (CVFSC), which was established about 11 years ago, has concentrated efforts in the Briggs Terrace area. There is limited entrance and exit access to the neighborhoods in that area. To prepare residents in the case of fire, CVFSC has held evacuation drills and extensive fire prevention informational events. The CVFSC has wildfire information on its website cvfiresafecouncil.org, including a preparation guide.

“Through the California Fire Safe Councils we prepare for fires to come,” Lopez said.

The Councils can prepare for fires prior to an emergency in several ways from making available information on home hardening to teaching how to prepare in case a mandatory evacuation order is instituted.

In preparation for wildfires, CAL FIRE promotes its Ready, Set, Go! program to educate residents on planning, preparing and staying aware in the case of a catastrophic wildfire. To learn more, visit fire.lacounty.gov or go to any local fire station.