We’re coming up on October and in San Diego that can mean: wildfire season. Here is some information to dispel common myths and a few tips on prevention.
Wildfires should not be frequent: San Diego County is one of the most wildfire-prone areas in the world, however, frequent wildfires in this area are not natural. The two dominant habitats which are coastal sage scrub and chaparral, do not often burn. Estimates are that wildfires used to naturally occurr every 30-125 years. Unlike other communities in the country, like prairies and woodlands, that need fire every few years to maintain them, our natural habitats cannot withstand frequent fires.
Santa Ana winds are not the cause of fires: Cal Fire has found that at least 95% of all San Diego wildfires in recent history were caused by human activity (machinery sparks, campfires, arson, etc.). While hot Santa Anas and drought create a high risk of fire, it’s human activity that is the cause. The invasion of non-native weeds, which burn more easily than our native habitat, has also made us more susceptible.
Our natural habitats are not naturally flammable: The natural vegetation in our area is not fire-prone. In fact, native plants tend to act more fire-resistant than many of the exotic species of plants that are commonly sold. Plants that are more fire-resistant than others will still burn if they haven’t been watered in months, and are subjected to hot, dry winds (and dangerous human activity).
Now that we have dispelled some myths about wildfire, here are some tips from Landscape architect Kay Stewart on how to help prevent them:
Fireproof your house:
- Remove debris from roof and gutters
- Screen vents on foundation, roof, or walls
- Weatherstrip house, toolsheds and garage doors
- Enclose or stucco any exposed framing
- Remove any flimsy wood trellises
- Replace deck or balcony with noncombustible materials
- Replace combustible stairways
- Replace roof with a Class A roofing assembly
- Replace windows to be California Fire Safe
- Teach children to never ignite fires in wildlands.
- Restrict outdoor gun target practice between June and November. Bullets strike boulders, make sparks, and start fires.
- Anyone working with gas-powered tools near wildlands should have a fire extinguisher. More fires are started by people with gas powered machinery in dry vegetation than due to any other accidental cause.
- Take note of power poles that appear to move in winds. These may spark and start a wildfire. Report them to the power company.
- Remove any dead plants near shoulders on highways. Catalytic converters and brakes are hot enough to ignite dry vegetation on contact.
- Report people who toss cigarettes out of their cars to the CHP.