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State fire officials call for brush clearance months early

Posted: January 24, 2014 1:58 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2014 1:58 p.m.

Warning of an early 2014 fire season, California fire officials Friday called for homeowners statewide to clear 100 feet of defensible space around their homes.

“We are experiencing conditions right now that we would usually see in August,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“In Southern California we never really transitioned out of fire season, and in Northern California we are already in the process of hiring additional seasonal firefighters to augment our permanent firefighters, who have been staffing extra fire equipment this winter,” Pinlott said.

“We have increased our personnel, and now we need the public to make sure they, too, are prepared for early fire season conditions.”

The warning comes as the National Weather Service was set to call off yet another Red Flag warning and wind advisory in the Santa Clarita Valley at 8 p.m. Friday. SCV residents have seen the warnings about high fire danger issued frequently in December and January, the time of year when storms should hit the area, not desert winds.

The prolonged drought and continuing dry winds have drained nearly all moisture out of native plants that populate hillsides around the Santa Clarita Valley, making them explosively dangerous in event of a fire, officials warn.

While the Santa Clarita Valley has so far dodged any major fires this season like the Colby Fire — which charred nearly 2,000 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains last week and destroyed five homes — the fire danger has not eased so far this winter.

Cal Fire, the statewide agency, has responded to nearly 300 wildfires that have charred more than 700 acres, Pimlott said in a news release. In a normal year the department only responds to about 50 fires that collective would char a little more than 100 acres.

Many of these fires have been sparked by powered equipment like lawn mowers and weed trimmers, the release said. While maintaining defensible space around homes is critical right now, residents are asked not to use power equipment outdoors when it’s dry and windy, and especially on Red Flag warning days.

For more information on preparing one’s home for wildfire, visit Cal Fire’s website and/or the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s fire-preparation website



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