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Threat of fire rises with mercury

Posted: July 2, 2008 1:13 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2008 5:03 a.m.

As the summer marches on and the mercury rises, so does the threat of fire in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Three small fires Tuesday welcomed the second half of the calendar year on July 1.

Little rain last winter has led to plenty of bone-dry brush in Santa Clarita Valley — loads of fuel should a fire break out, said Inspector Sam Padilla with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

While it’s hard to exactly forecast the fire season, he said that “the threat is there. “A brush fire is sometimes caused by nature, or sometimes it’s caused by (a human), but it’s a natural thing. These things do what they want.”

Add wind to the mix, and you’ve got fires that can move fast and blacken a lot of brush, he said.
On Tuesday, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that the national fire preparedness level had been raised to Level 5 — the highest.

The Fire Center reported Tuesday that there were 95 large fires burning about 526,000 acres throughout the nation, with more than half of the large fires actually fire complexes, where multiple fires in proximity to each other are managed together. However, none of those fires were in Southern California — the closest fire is the Clover Incident in Weldon, approximately 135 miles northeast of Santa Clarita.

The Fire Center reported that by Sunday more than 2 million acres had burned nationwide since Jan. 1. That is the third highest total during the same period since 2000; nearly 3.7 million acres burned during the first six months of 2006 and more than 2.7 million acres burned before July 1, 2002.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 356,000 acres were burned by recent infernos throughout the state.

On May 9, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order regarding potential wildfires during the next few months.

“California once again finds itself facing an imminent threat of devastating wildfires and imminent peril to people and property,” Schwarzenegger said in the order. “The number of dead, dying and diseased trees continues to increase as a result of bark beetle infestation in Southern California, providing a readily available fuel load which creates an imminent threat of catastrophic fires.”

He added that the lack of rain and warmer temperatures may contribute to the wildfire season this year.

“Current below-normal precipitation, seasonally higher-than-normal temperatures, strong winds, and low relative humidity have contributed to heavy fuel loads and the early drying of wildland vegetation,” the order states. “Immediate action is needed to respond to these conditions and to protect the people, property, economy and environment in California.”

Schwarzenegger has ordered the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to “secure and deploy additional resources that are necessary ... to protect the safety of persons and property from wildfires during periods of elevated fire risk.”


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