Record high temperatures in some locations are fueling the start to this year's fire season.
More warm temperatures are expected this week, and late rains prompted additional fuel growth – primarily “light grassy fuels” which move very quickly.
There are several big concerns this year:
- Large scale base camp locations for firefighters. This is a concern when we will likely be still practicing safe distance protocol for months to come.
- If there are mass evacuations because of a wildfire, the Red Cross usually seeks out large public facilities, like a county fairgrounds, for example. This year, their game plan is to avoid them if possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Lack of prescribed burns (leaving heavy vegetation ripe to burn), lack of multi agency training on wildfires done before each season (ensures personnel are trained and up to speed working together) and concerns of conducting property inspections for those living in the Wildland Urban Interface while ensuring safe social distancing. Lastly, what is the plan for those that have been laid off and cannot afford to have hazardous vegetation cleared from their property.
Health guidelines may mean utilizing hotels or motels or dormitory style buildings to make sure people are kept a safe distance apart. If we had to absolutely open up a shelter like we have in the past, we would enact protocols like screening people when they come in making sure the beds are appropriate distance apart.
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So far this year, there have been 888 fires statewide, which is just above average. 1,482 acres have burned, and over 6,000 Cal Fire firefighters are ready.
We need the publics help and cooperation more than ever this year.
Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale.