“There’s never an easy season,” Glendale Deputy Fire Chief Steve Howard said.
The onset of the Santa Ana winds, which on Wednesday prompted the National Weather Service to issue a high-wind advisory through Thursday morning, gave way to isolated thunderstorms later in the afternoon.
A lack of any major fires in the hills surrounding Glendale, La Crescenta and Burbank has allowed plenty of vegetation to overtake the landscape, fire officials said, and as the dry season takes hold, the chaparral is becoming tinder dry.
“So we’re in a no-win situation,” Glendale Fire Capt. Tom Propst said.
Combine the dry brush with high winds, possible lightning strikes, human error and any number of ignition scenarios, and a devastating fire remains a very real possibility for the Glendale region, fire officials added.
Seven of the nine Glendale Fire stations include varying amounts of land where urban meets wild land, and the potential for brush fires to reach homes is the greatest, Howard said.
“It’s like we’re ringed with brush,” he said.
That’s why the Fire Department is pushing property owners to clear brush 100 feet from around their homes and other structures before June 30, or risk receiving abatement orders that, if left unheeded, could result in fines.
The so-called defensible space is considered to be a crucial tool in protecting homes, and firefighters, from an oncoming blaze.
The brush-free barrier, combined with heightened awareness, communication and hazard assessments, were among the key talking points for the hundreds of Area C firefighters who over the course of three days were briefed by state fire officials on proper wildfire-fighting techniques.
They used the 2006 Esperanza fire in Riverside County — in which a five-member U.S. Forest Service firefighting crew was killed while trying to protect a vacation home from the oncoming blaze — as a lesson in what to watch for when fighting unpredictable, wind-driven wildfires.
Jeff Brand, chief officer for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reminded the firefighters to use prudence in comprehensively assessing an oncoming blaze, especially in knowing which structures to protect and which are too dangerous.
But he also said homeowners were responsible for doing their part in creating the brush-free areas that protect firefighters from what can be large, unpredictable flames and the heated air they create.
“The homeowner has some ownership in this,” he said.
JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.