Firefighters warn of storm dangers after series of lightning-sparked fires


SAN DIEGO – Monday’s thunderstorm brought a dazzling lightning display to the skies of San Diego County.

What it also brought was a series of small fires sparked by the numerous lightning strikes

Starting Monday morning and into Tuesday, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department responded to 24 tree fires, five brush fires and 11 structure fires. In those 24 hours, local dispatchers also fielded some 740 calls, up from the typical figure of about 400.

The fires come in the midst of National Fire Prevention Week, recognized annually in the U.S. and Canada to educate the public about fire safety. This year’s theme is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” focused on educating people on the different sounds of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

In light of Monday’s fires, firefighters urge residents to take shelter during thunderstorms and keep smoke alarms maintained.

“If the structure is struck by lightning and you happen to be asleep, having a working smoke detector, having an exit plan and having accountability for everybody is very important,” Heartland Fire and Rescue Division Chief Bent Koch said. “Having a working smoke detector doubles your likelihood of survival.”

Chula Vista Fire Department Capt. Josh Sanders said his department didn’t respond to as many incidents on Monday night. But he encouraged residents to remain vigilant in the event of lightning and to take precautions, including staying away from tall structures such as large antennas, telephone poles or trees in the event of lightning.

“Also, you don’t want to be in a body of water,” Sanders said. “That includes large bodies of water like the ocean, rivers and lakes and small bodies of water like your typical swimming pool.”

Even with some rain, October historically is known for devastating fire activity, namely the Cedar Fire in 2003 and the Witch Creek Fire in 2007. 

“Oftentimes we’ve had very strong Santa Ana wind-driven fires, but also the weather is getting colder,” Koch said.

Firefighters also encourage you to register for reverse 911 to get emergency alerts. 

To register your phone, click here.

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