Officials prepare for peak fire season


As the peak wildfire season approaches, fire officials on May 26 urged San Diego County residents to be prepared by clearing brush and other combustibles away from their property, having important documents ready to go and leaving when told to evacuate.

Del Mar Fire Marshall Robert Scott said the city is still at risk despite its coastal location. He said the protected types of plant species in Crest Canyon can ignite in dry and Santa Ana conditions, and are difficult to access in the event of a brushfire.

Scott said residents with homes overlooking bluffs or open spaces should have at least 100 feet of clearance for protection. He said embers could travel up to a mile in the wind, making the need to reduce overgrown “fuels” in backyards especially important.

Finally, needles from Torrey Pine trees that fall onto roofs of homes are flammable and can ignite with certain types of shingles. A Del Mar ordinance calls for the removal of all wood shake shingles, which are flammable, by July 16, 2013.

Higher than normal rainfall has resulted in increased grass and vegetation across the state, especially in San Diego’s East County, Cal Fire Chief Howard Windsor said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued an executive order providing for additional resources for San Diego County during the peak fire season, which runs from June through October, Windsor said.

Firefighters in San Diego County hope to contain all blazes within the first two hours, to 10 acres or less, Windsor said.

Augie Ghio, chief of the San Miguel fire district, said it’s important to educate the community on what they can do to prepare before a wildfire happens.

Besides clearing brush and weeds away from property, residents should always be prepared.

“Get out of Dodge,” Ghio said.

“Don’t be part of the problem.”

Cleveland National Forest fire Chief Carlton Joseph said San Diego County has a lot of “flashy fuel” that can burn quickly in a wildfire, especially in areas such as Laguna Footprint near Mount Laguna.

“Anything that can burn will burn under these worst-case conditions,” he said.

Firefighters continue to have fixed-wing aircraft and water-dropping helicopters at their disposal, but preparedness helps minimize the damage and prevents loss of life, officials said.

Firefighters are still at the whim of Mother Nature when it comes to factors such as wind and low humidity, Windsor said.

“There is no magic pill,” he told reporters, reiterating the importance of educating the public on fire preparedness. “We can get knocked off our feet.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was asked is she felt safe from wildfires in San Diego County.

“I feel a lot safer today than back in 2003,” the supervisor said.

The Cedar Fire in October 2003 burned more than 280,278 acres, destroyed 2,232 homes and nearly 600 other structures, and killed 15 people, including one firefighter.

Staff writer Jonathan Horn contributed to this report.

Today is the last day to schedule a vegetation pickup

Today is the last day for Del Mar residents to call Coast Waste Management to schedule the free delivery of a Dumpster-sized bin as part of Fuel Reduction Week.

This is an effort to reduce fire risks from “flashy fuels” such as brush and tree branches that can be quick to ignite in a wildfire. It is especially important for Del Mar residents who have tree branches hanging over chimneys.

Residents can call Coast Waste Management at (800) 386-7783 to schedule a bin for delivery. The company will bring the bin to hold the removed vegetation on its regular pickup day next week (June 7 to June 11).

“It is essential that we identify and mitigate the fire hazards from excessive vegetation in our outdoor environment,” Mayor Richard Earnest wrote in a column in the Del Mar Times.

Del Mar residents will have a week to fill the bins, which Coast Waste Management will remove on its next scheduled normal pickup day. If residents have less than a pickup truck-sized load of vegetation, they may leave it for collection in bundles placed at the curb instead of ordering a bin.

Get a bin

  • Call Coast Waste Management at (800) 386-7783

— Jonathan Horn