SAN DIEGO – As this year's bumper crop of grass and brush begins drying out, San Diegans are being urged to prepare for a dangerous fire season.
Preparing defensible space around your home is the single most important thing you can do to prepare for the long, hot summer, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Deputy Chief Doug Perry.
"If you can give yourself distance, you give yourself a better chance to save your house and your family," Perry said.
Because of all the rain this winter, there is an abundance of natural fuel in urban canyons and in the open spaces surrounding many San Diego neighborhoods, Perry said. As the grass and brush dry out, the danger of rapidly spreading wildfires increases, he said.
"You're going to see the potential for some large fires this year and easy starts. That's what has us concerned," he said.
A zone defense is the best approach to creating a defensible space around your residence, Perry said. If you live next to natural vegetation, try to provide firefighters with 100 feet of defensible space around you home. Zone 1, which should extend at least 35 feet from your home, should be well-irrigated and be mostly low-growing plants. Zone 2 extends out to 100 feet. Create a buffer zone by removing weeds and brush and thinning vegetation.
CAL Fire Chief Tony Mecham says it’s that dry vegetation that creates a dangerous path for fire to travel.
“Certainly when there’s a life threat or if we think a life is threatened we’re going to do everything we can, but if there’s no life threat then we have to look at the life safety of our firefighters,” said CAL Fire Chief Tony Mecham.
He says that dangerous path of flames around a home not only puts properties and communities at risk, but lives.
“The first thing we evaluate is how safe is it to be at that home. Number one and then the other is when we have multiple structures threatened who’s done their clearance and given us an opportunity to be successful and my prerogative is if the homeowner hasn’t done what they need to do to clear their home well we’re going to move on to the next home,” said Chief Mecham.
San Diego County has invested more than $400 million dollars in the region’s firefighting resources since 2003, despite all the firefighting tools and crews, officials say the region’s readiness is a team effort and depends on residents taking steps to get their homes ready to keep properties, people and fire crews safe.
“We want all the dead and dying vegetation thinned out completely. That can be replaced with fire resistive or drought resistive plants that are readily available in the county and the second 50 ft out we’re looking for it to be thinned out,” said CAL Fire Captain Isaac Sanchez. “If you do what we’re asking, if you do your part, we will do our part.”
Whether or not you need to create a defensible space, you need to be ready to evacuate your family and pets in a fire emergency. The fire departments Ready, Set, Go! guide can help you prepare your personal evacuation plan.