As the two-year anniversary of the Witch Creek fire approaches and a massive fire continues to burn in a remote area of Santa Barbara, officials are bracing for the warm, dry days ahead.
They are doing their darnedest to get people to pay attention to "defensible space" and evacuation planning.
In Rancho Santa Fe, defensible space has taken on special meaning in the face of the large number of eucalyptus trees affected by the red gum lerp.
We've all heard the mantra: Defensible space increases the chances that structures will survive a wildfire. The RSF Fire Protection District (and many other departments that share similar recommendations) says you need to keep 100 feet of defensible space around your home.
While that distance isn't practical for all of us who live closer to our neighbors than 100 feet, the goal is the same. Here are some of the steps the Rancho fire folks suggest taking:
- Trim trees and vegetation away from the exterior of your home, rooftop and chimney(s).
- Thin out combustible vegetation within 30 feet of roadways and driveways.
- Remove dead, dying or diseased trees.
- Trim tree branches 10 feet from rooftops, chimneys, and outdoor barbecues.
- Dispose of yard clippings, plant waste, trash, debris and other combustible materials in an appropriate manner.
- Replenish dead and dying vegetation with fire-resistive trees and plants; do not replant with flammable vegetation.
Others call that the "3 R's of defensible space: Remove, Reduce, Replace."
While the lerp-infested eucalyptus may seem as if they're just a problem in Rancho Santa Fe (and Scripps Ranch), we all should be concerned. If we get a fast-moving fire, dead and dying trees will fuel the flames - whether they are eucalyptus or not. Just because you don't have a grove of eucalyptus doesn't mean the fire won't reach your neighborhood. All we have to do is remember how quickly the Witch Creek fire jumped Interstate 15 and moved through Del Dios.
Preparing now will make life less frantic if - or when - that fire comes. And if it does, you should know what you're going to take with you, what your family members will do if you're not all in the same place and how you'll get out of your neighborhood.
There's lots of information out there from our Fire Safe Councils and local fire departments on how to prepare and, perhaps, prevent wildfires. Take advantage of programs such as the Wildland Urban Interface class next Saturday at the RSF fire district. Go online and watch the San Miguel Fire Department's YouTube video called "Before the Threat," which was developed with Farmers Insurance.
Most of all, don't push the thought of that next big fire onto the back burner. It may well be here before any of us want it to be.