Warm weather and high winds caused the California Department of Forestry to declare fire season early this year. The wind has dried grass rapidly. The warm temperatures have also fueled the dangerous conditions, say California fire safety officials.
“Our concern is always the whole state – virtually the whole state is at risk, ” said CDF Public Information Officer Karen Terrill. Officials are watching residential areas built on or near wildland. “We are most concerned when the urban lifestyle is mixed with the wildland. People move into areas like the foothills and attempt to continue to live the same kind of lifestyles they had in the urban areas.”
Several common, modern conveniences, such as lawnmowers, are threats in the foothills and other wildland areas, fire officials said. Accidents with outdoor cooking appliances can cause fires. Barbecues, for example, can throw sparks into dry areas.
The three counties CDF is most concerned about are in Southern California and are San Diego, San Bernadino and Riverside counties.
“Those areas went on fire season in mid-April,” Terrill said. “We are already seeing burning conditions there that we don’t usually see until mid-September. It’s as dry kiln dry lumber, and it’s ready to burn.”
The current alert in Northern California is moderate.
Terrill said that concerned citizens can log onto www.nifc.gov/news/outlook_map.html to watch areas under fire alert. Also on the Web site is advice fire officials want citizens to follow to protect themselves and firefighters.
“Generally speaking, create a defensible space around your property that gives our firefighters a chance to protect you and your house,” Terrill said about fire prepping the home.
In addition, it suggests that rooftops be cleared of leaves, twigs and pine needs.
“That just like having kindling over your head,” Terrill said. According to Terrill, most houses in California wildland burn from the roof down.
People are also advised to trim tree branches away from the home and to plan emergency escape routes in case of fire.
“We want people to live and enjoy California’s wildland, but we want people to be fire safe. If you live in the wild lands there are certain things you have to do that you wouldn’t if you lived in the city,” Terrill said. “The whole idea is to give our firefighters a safe places where they can set up and protect you.”
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