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Fire officials urge residents to brush up on their safety

October 15, 2005|By By Tania Chatila

GLENDALE -- In the wake of recent wildfires that burned more than 24,000 acres at the Los Angeles and Ventura County border, and 1,100 acres in Burbank, firefighters are urging local residents to take extra measures to keep their homes safe from brush fires -- especially residents of homes near the wildland areas of Glendale.

"Well, as you know, Glendale is surrounded by mountainous areas, and we have a lot of this, what we call, interface between wildland and homes," Glendale Fire Chief Chris Gray said.

And it is these interface areas, like in the Verdugo, San Rafael and San Gabriel mountains, that are at most risk, because of their location, in the event of a brush fire, he said. In Glendale, the Santa Ana winds can dry hillside vegetation, Glendale Fire Capt. Ed Ackerman said.

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The combination of dry brush with discarded cigarettes, car fires on the freeway, glass reflection or arson can spark a blaze. .

Brush fire season typically runs from August to December, but because of the climate in Southern California and the Santa Ana winds, brush fires could happen at any time, so residents need to be prepared year-round, Gray said.

Residents should remove dry grass and weeds from around their home, trim trees back at least 10 to 15 feet from their chimney and house and should clear dead or dying branches away, Lynch said.

As for the department's role in prevention, two hands-on brush fire training sessions are scheduled each year, where they do mock drills and simulate fires in the mountains and hillsides, in order to prepare, Ackerman said.

"One of the main things we want to emphasize is the residents play an important role in this partnership," Gray said, adding that in order to keep up on brush safety, firefighters and residents need to work together as a team. "The city cannot do it on its own."

Firefighters are well-versed in the areas most vulnerable to a blaze.

The Glendale Fire Department has a "Wildland Interface Response Manual," last updated in July of 2003, which breaks the city down into nine critical brush-fire hazard areas -- the San Gabriel mountains, Northern Verdugo mountains, Southern Verdugo mountains, San Rafael mountains, Woodlands West, Chevy Chase Canyon, Glenoaks Canyon, College Hills and Adams Hill -- Glendale Fire Capt. Bill Lynch said.

"These are the areas where the residential is extremely close to the brush; that's why these areas are identified," he said. "What this response manual does for us is it allows us to identify where we need resources in the event of a fire."

More than 50,000 residents live in the 10,000 homes in those nine areas, Lynch said.

The risk does not mean residents should be worried, but they do need to be vigilant, officials said.

"They need to be prepared," Lynch said.

That preparation should also include evacuation plans, not only in their own homes, but within their neighborhoods, he said.

"People in these areas should be prepared," Lynch said. "They live in these areas and they know they are subjected to wildland fires."

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