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Monday, September 24, 2012

Fire Concerns Grow with potential arrival of Santa Ana winds

SAN BERNARDINO — The extreme fire hazard that exists across San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire grows in potential with the arrival of the Santa Ana winds. The “Devil Winds” as they are known, race through Southern California primarily during the months of October through December.

A recent study by the California Insurance Industry has concluded that more than two million California homes are exposed to potential high wildfire danger. The report says thousands of those homes are in the Inland Empire. As we have witnessed through the years, many of California’s most disastrous fires have been driven by strong, dry Santa Ana winds. This includes the Panorama fire of November 1980, that destroyed 345 structures and killed four people, the 2003 Grand Prix and Old fires, the deadly Esparanza fire.

CAL FIRE San Bernardino Deputy Chief Rod Bywater says “fire safety needs to be on the mind of all the residents of San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire, especially those who live and recreate in the mountains and wildland areas”. CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Fire Prevention Battalion Chief Preston Fouts reminds us that “residents in the urban intermix and wildland areas need to maintain a fire safe clearance of a minimum of 100 feet around all structures or to the property line.” Even if you did your clearance in the spring, you should give the property a once over so that you have good defensible space around your structures. This defensible space provides firefighters the area they need in many instances to mount an effective defense of your home.  Are you Ready for a wildland fire?  Are you set if a fire occurs? And are you prepared to go if the fire is headed your way? Learn more about being ready for wildfire

According to weather experts, the Santa Ana wind cycle begins when high pressure from the northeast pushes hot dry winds into Southern California. These winds initially occur approximately every ten days. The frequency of the wind events increases as the weeks go by until December when the wind events can happen about every three or four days. The racing winds, dry weather, and low humidity combine to create a prescription for disaster.

Another reason that makes the Santa Ana winds so dangerous is their appeal to arsonists. The hot and dry vegetation beckons to the destructive tendencies of an arsonist. With this in mind, it is very important for residents everywhere especially in the mountain and wildland areas to pay attention to suspicious actions. If you see something, say something. Report suspicious actions to CAL FIRE, your local fire agency or law enforcement.

The arson fires from 1993 were the catalyst for the 1994 “One Strike for Arson” law. It punishes any person who willfully, maliciously, deliberately, with premeditation and with specific intent, sets fire to, burns, or causes to be burned, any residence, structure, forest land or property. That person when convicted is guilty of aggravated arson. According to this law, if any one or more of the specified aggravated factors exists, the person convicted SHALL not be eligible for probation and SHALL be imprisoned in state prison for ten years to life.

CAL FIRE needs your help to combat arson and wildfire. The vegetation is tender dry and with low humidity and high winds, very susceptible to ignition. Almost any type of heat source can start a fire in these conditions. If you see a fire, no matter what size, report it to the nearest fire department or call “911”. Please do not assume that another person made the call. The quicker the public reports a fire, the faster firefighters can respond. Remember, that if you have information about how a fire started, report it to the fire department or law enforcement.

CAL FIRE Fire Prevention Battalion Chief Preston Fouts says “preventing fires is everyone’s business. If we work together, we can keep our homes and property, recreational areas and most of all our loved ones safe from the ravages of wildfire."