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Our View: Prepare for wildfires

The Signal Editorial Board

Posted: June 26, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2011 1:30 a.m.

A fire-dropping helicopter makes a drop near a home on Hubbard Road in Acton as fire trucks move into position for structure protection as the 100-acre fire burns near rural homes in Acton on Wednesday afternoon.

This week’s blaze in Acton has shown that fire season is upon us once again — and we should not be complacent just because we had a wet winter and spring.

As it goes every year, when the rain stops and the heat intensifies, our once-green and lush hillsides turn into rolling waves of golden-brown kindling.

The brush fire in Acton torched some 100 acres and destroyed a shed and a vehicle before firefighters controlled the blaze, but it was a far cry from the massive destruction that it could have grown to.

The Santa Clarita Valley is no stranger to large wildfires, as evidenced by the 2007 Buckweed Fire, which scorched 38,000 acres and destroyed 21 homes, and the massive 2009 Station Fire, which burned 160,577 acres, destroyed 89 homes and killed two firefighters.

While a handful of fires are inevitable, there are precautions SCV residents can take to minimize the risk of property damage and physical injury when the hills ignite.

The city of Santa Clarita has some tips for fire safety outside your house:

n Clear dry grass, brush and leaves within 30 feet of any structures. Use ice plants and other fire-resistant plants to landscape.

* Clear all debris from the roof, gutter and spouts.

* Remove dead limbs within six feet of the ground on trees 18 feet high or taller.

* Remove weak, dead and leaning trees.

* Relocate firewood at least 30 feet from all structures.

* Cover chimneys and stovepipes with nonflammable screens.

* Make sure your house address is clearly visible from the curbside.

It’s also advised to make an evacuation plan in case flames threaten residential areas, forcing locals to flee their homes.

A plan includes:
n Making a list of valuables, including legal documents, photos, jewelry, computer files and hard drives and anything irreplaceable.

* Practice emergency exit drills regularly.

* Work with neighbors to assist people with special needs and those who require transportation.

* Preplan primary and secondary escape routes out of your neighborhood.

With the Fourth of July coming, County Mayor Michael Antonovich recently reminded residents that all fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles County because of the fire hazard they pose. Even possessing the “safe and sane” variety is punishable with a fine as high as $1,000 or up to one year in county jail.

Every year around this time, all across the country, illegal or errant fireworks spark blazes that scorch hillsides, destroy homes and businesses and even kill.

So, leave the pyrotechnic displays to the professionals. Make sure your smoke alarms work. Watch where you throw cigarette butts. Keep barbecue flames in check. Clear dead plant life from around your home. Keep your children away from matches and lighters.

If we all do our part, then we can minimize what damage this year’s fire season will bring, and we’ll all breathe a little easier until the rains come back.



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