California wildfires, in their 2020 rampage throughout the Northern, Central and Southern parts of the state, have destroyed more than 1,100 structures — including homes and businesses — displaced more than 100,000 people, and burned through more than a million acres in one month, according to several different sources.
Or to offer another perspective, there were 259,000 acres burned in California in all of 2019.
Once again firefighters are being stretched mightily; as of Monday, Aug. 24, 14,000 firefighters and 2,400 engines were battling 17 major fires up and down California, although Gov. Gavin Newsom had promised more support within 48 hours
Fire activity in the county — with the exception of the brushfires at in Lake Hughes — has been so far relatively stable. But, as the Lake Hughes fire shows, that could change in an instant.
Nearly 32,000 acres had been burned there as of Tuesday, Aug. 25. The blaze had destroyed 12 structures and 21 outbuildings, and damaged six other structures, according to the Forest Service. Officials said two people were injured as a result of the fire, but details were not disclosed.
Fortunately, officials said the 1,278 firefighters on scene had 70% containment as of Wednesday, Aug. 26, and full containment was expected by Sept. 12. In addition, all evacuees have been allowed to return home.
Fire department officials say wildfires will continue to be fueled by a buildup of dry vegetation and driven by hot, dry “Santa Ana” winds, making them extremely dangerous and challenging to control.
With dry conditions, and as you get closer to the fall windy fire season, the LACoFD encourages all residents to be prepared for wildfires. Here are some ways to help protect your home and property:
— Create/maintain a defensible space. It is essential for increasing your home’s chances for surviving a wildfire. Think of three zones equaling 200 feet of defensible space — the first being a zone that’s cleared of all dead or dying vegetation from around and hanging over your residence; a second outer zone where grass is cut to a maximum height of three inches and there is spacing between trees and shrubs; and a third outer zone where the native vegetation has been thinned and spaced by 30 to 50 percent.
— Safeguard your home. Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road, Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-flammable screen of 1/8-inch wire mesh or smaller to prevent embers from escaping, enclose the underside of balconies and decks with fire-resistant materials to prevent embers from blowing underneath, and keep your deck clear of combustible items, such as baskets, dried flower arrangements, and other debris.
— Driveways and Access Roads. Driveways should be designed to allow fire and emergency vehicles and equipment to reach your home (current fire code requirement is 15 feet wide), and access roads should have a minimum 10-foot clearance on either side of the traveled section of the roadway and should allow for two-way traffic. In addition, locked or electric gates should have a disconnect or a lock box.
— Protect inside your home. Keep a working fire extinguisher on hand and train your family how to use it. Install smoke alarms on each level of your home and adjacent to the bedrooms; test them monthly and change the batteries twice a year. Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric, and water main shut-off controls are and how to safely shut them down in an emergency.
— Don’t forget your roof. Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your home because it can easily catch fire from windblown embers. Build your roof or re-roof with fire-resistant materials that include composition, metal, or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent ember intrusion.
For a complete listing of protections and emergency preparation plans, visit: http://fire.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Ready-set-go_051420.pdf.
City News Service contributed to this report.