Tag Archives: Southern California

‘It’s like having gasoline out there’: Grim fire season starts much drier in U.S. West than record-shattering 2020 | Corona, CA

by: Associated Press, Steve Kuzj, Lauren Lyster Posted: May 24, 2021 / 01:14 PM PDT / Updated: May 25, 2021 / 03:49 PM PDT

As bad as last year’s record-shattering fire season was, the western U.S. starts this year’s in even worse shape.

The soil in the West is record dry for this time of year. In much of the region, plants that fuel fires are also the driest scientists have seen. The vegetation is primed to ignite, especially in the Southwest where dead juniper trees are full of flammable needles.

“It’s like having gasoline out there,” said Brian Steinhardt, forest fire zone manager for Prescott and Coconino national forests in Arizona.

A climate change-fueled megadrought of more than 20 years is making conditions that lead to fire even more dangerous, scientists said. Rainfall in the Rockies and farther west was the second lowest on record in April, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It means that the dice are loaded toward a lot of forest fire this year,” said Park Williams, a UCLA climate and fire scientist, who calculated that soil in the western half of the nation is the driest it has been since 1895. “This summer we’re going into fire season with drier fuels than we were at this time last year.”

In addition, the western drought is deepening week by week.

In late March, less than one-third of California was suffering extreme or exceptional drought. Now more than 73% is, according to the National Drought Monitor, which is based on precipitation, temperature, soil moisture and streamflow measurements. A year ago, heading into the record-smashing 2020 fire year when more than 4% of California burned, just 3% of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought.

But the outlook is worse elsewhere.

“I think the Southwest is really primed for a bad fire season,” University of Utah fire scientist Phil Dennison said. That’s because last year’s normal monsoon season, which brings much of the year’s rainfall, never showed up.

A year ago, none of Arizona, Nevada and Utah was in extreme or exceptional drought, but now more than 90% of Utah, 86% of Arizona and 75% of Nevada is in those highest drought categories, according to the drought monitor. New Mexico jumped from 4% extreme or exceptional drought a year ago to more than 77% now.

UCLA meteorologist Daniel Swain, who also works for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and The Nature Conservancy, said key factors going into fire season are soil and plant wetness.

“So is soil moisture very low? Is vegetation extremely dry? Absolutely, yes. Unequivocally, yes. Pretty much everywhere in California and the Southwest,” Swain said. “So that box is checked big time in a way that is going to massively increase the potential background flammability … given a spark, given extreme weather conditions.”

This doesn’t necessarily ensure the 2021 fire season will be worse than 2020. Last year more than 15,800 square miles of the United States burned, an area about the size of Maryland and Delaware combined. Several scientists said last year’s fires were stoked not just by hot, dry conditions, but by unusual situations that made a bad year horrific:

Two intense heat waves — one that nearly set a record for hottest temperature on Earth in Death Valley — set the stage, and a freak California lightning barrage provided lots of spark.

The lightning outbreak was the type that has happened only a few times in history and is unlikely to occur two years in a row, Swain said.

“Maybe it won’t be the hottest summer,” he said, adding. “I’m really grasping at straws here. All we have going for us is dumb luck.”

When the scientists see extremely dry or dying trees, they get even more worried.

In Arizona, junipers are succumbing to the 20-year drought and its two-year intensification, said Joel McMillin, a forest health zone leader for the U.S. Forest Service there. Officials haven’t done a precise count but anecdotally the die-off is 5% to 30% with some patches up to 60%.

Until the dead needles drop to the ground, which takes a year or so, the fire hazard increases, fire manager Steinhardt said. “So you have something that’s highly flammable and it’s … 20-, 30-, 40-foot tall and every single one of those needles on there now becomes an ember that can be launched.”

“This is probably one of the driest and potentially most challenging situations I’ve been in,” said the veteran of 32 fire seasons.

In California, normally drought-tolerant blue oaks are dying around the San Francisco Bay Area, said Scott Stephens, a fire science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “They don’t have access to water. Soil moisture is so low. When you start to see blue oak dying, that gets your attention.”

Human-caused climate change and decades of fire suppression that increases fuel loads are aggravating fire conditions across the West, scientists said.

Global warming has contributed to the megadrought and is making plants more prone to burning.

Normally a good part of the sun’s energy removes water from plants and soil, but when they are already dry, that energy instead makes the air hotter, which creates a feedback loop, Swain said.

And drier conditions lead to beetle infestations that further weaken and kill trees, said University of Utah’s Dennison.

For decades, U.S. firefighting agencies have tried to put out fires as quickly as possible, and that’s usually worked, UCLA’s Williams said. But the practice resulted in the buildup of dense trees, brush and other potential fire fuels.

“Fire is escaping our control increasingly frequently,” he said. “And some of the reason for that might be because of increasing density of fuels. But we also see that these fires are escaping our control during record-breaking heat waves — and it’s the warmest, driest years when we have the hardest time controlling fires.”

For more information about fire updates, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

Thousands of SCE Customers Without Power as Strong Winds Batter SoCal | Corona, CA

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Tens of thousands of Southern California Edison customers were without power Wednesday as strong winds posed the risk of downing power lines that could spark wildfires.

SCE imposed public safety power shutoffs, in which electricity is turned off for customers in wind-prone areas. As of early Wednesday afternoon, over 26,800 SCE customers had their power shut off, while another 36,000 customers were under consideration for shutoffs.

Meanwhile, firefighters battling blazes across the Southland appeared to have gained the upper hand while contending with the strong winds following a day of ferocious Santa Anas that battered mountain and valley areas. Fire crews were working to contain a 43-acre brush fire on the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians reservation near Mecca. The non-injury blaze, which was 50% contained as of Wednesday morning, was reported about 4:40 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Pierce Street and Avenue 73 amid a red flag warning due to high winds and low humidity.

Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman April Newman said 18 firefighters remained on scene with the goal of fully containing the blaze by the end of the day.

A few fires broke out Tuesday, including one in the Santa Clarita area that blackened 167 acres and a wind-driven brush fire near the westbound 10 Freeway in the San Dimas area that burned about 40 acres. Firefighters appeared to have the upper hand on both blazes Wednesday.

A red flag warning for extreme fire danger expired Tuesday night, but elevated to brief critical fire conditions were still possible Wednesday due to continued strong and gusty offshore winds, according to the National Weather Service.

A wind advisory was in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday for most of Los Angeles County, and a high wind warning was in effect until 6 p.m. for Orange County coastal areas, and until 10 p.m. for inland Orange County. North to northeast winds of 25 to 40 mph were expected in the San Clarita Valley, with gusts up to 55 mph. Gusts were expected to reach 55 mph in the San Fernando Valley, 50 mph in metro Los Angeles, and 60 mph in the mountains. The winds should become weaker by nightfall, with those number dropping by 15 to 20 mph, the NWS said. On Tuesday, the NWS recorded gusts topping 86 mph in some mountain areas, including Warm Springs and the Magic Mountain Truck Trail in northern Los Angeles County. Other parts of the Santa Clarita Valley were hit with gusts topping 40 and 50 mph, as were select areas of the San Fernando Valley. Winds were also recorded near 50 mph in the Antelope Valley.

The Los Angeles County and city fire departments were prepared up for the wind event, pre-deploying resources in critically endangered areas prior to Tuesday. The Los Angeles Fire Department stationed three task forces in the valleys, while the county fire department ordered “additional staffing and pre-deployment of resources throughout the county.”

Red flag parking restrictions took effect Los Angeles at 8 a.m. The restrictions, which bar residents from parking on streets in high fire hazard zones to ensure fire crews can access hard-to-reach areas, were scheduled to be lifted at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Pasadena imposed similar restrictions at noon, continuing through at least 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Kevin McGowan, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, urged residents to be prepared for dangerous conditions.

“Our emergency response officials are world-class and will stand ready to defend lives and property,” he said. “But we need collaboration from all residents who live in L.A. County to stay safe as a region. We must all do our part by staying informed and being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice, especially if you live in canyon, mountain or foothill communities.”

He urged residents to have an evacuation plan in place and be prepared by taking steps such as parking vehicles facing the street and on driveways — not in garages that may not be accessible if electric garage-door openers become inoperable in an outage.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Thousands in California Face Power Shutoffs During Fire Weather | Corona, CA

Utility Southern California Edison said nearly 50,000 of its customers could go dark as a prevention measure.

Nov. 27, 2020, 4:18 PM PST

By Dennis Romero

Thousands of utility customers in Southern California were warned they could be in the dark Friday because dry, windy fire weather was whipping the region.

Initially 100,000 customers were under consideration for precautionary power cutoffs to prevent sparking fires, but that number was reduced to 47,000 by afternoon, said Taelor Bakewell, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison.

Still, electricity was cut off to 15,796 customers Friday under the preventative plan, she said.

Customers in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties could still be affected, she said. Another 2,739 customers in San Diego County were warned of possible shutoffs from San Diego Gas & Electric, the utility said.

The city of Los Angeles has its own taxpayer-run utility that doesn’t participate in precautionary outages. The shutoffs have otherwise become customary during dry, windy weather in California.

State fire officials determined that Pacific Gas & Electric transmission lines were the cause of the state’s deadliest blaze, 2018’s Camp Fire, and the utility agreed to billions of dollars of settlements connected to a rash of Northern California fires in 2017.

Even in late November, with overnight temperatures producing freeze warnings in some parts of Southern California, fire weather can erupt. The weekend’s forecast includes dry, offshore winds from the U.S.-Mexico border to Ventura County.

Gusts of up to 65 mph were possible in regional mountains through Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

“What drives the fire risk is not just temperature,” said Tom Fischer, a weather service meteorologist in Oxnard. “It’s wind, low humidity and fuel moisture.”

The winds could subside by Sunday, he said: “But don’t let your guard down.”

Dennis Romero writes for NBC News and is based in Los Angeles.

For more information about fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas

Mythbusters: Fire Safety Edition | Corona, CA

When you live in California, dealing with a fire season is something we are all familiar with. And now that we are smack dab in the middle of wildfire season, it is important that we are prepared for any type of fire that may arise during these hotter months. Preparation is necessary, but it’s critical that you know the truth regarding fire safety. The following includes a list of five common fire safety myths:

Myth #1: A smoke detector provides enough protection.

Fact: Having smoke alarms can be a vital part of fire safety, but they shouldn’t be your sole form of protection. They don’t put out the fire and if not regularly checked, smoke alarms may also fail to work.

Myth #2: You can control and put out a small fire on your own.

Fact: Many damaging fires start with a small accident. No matter how big or small the flames are, be sure to follow any fire safety instructions you have set in your home or workplace.

Myth #3: Fire sprinklers systems will freeze during winter.

Fact: Rest assured that proper procedures are put into place during a fire sprinkler installation process to keep it from freezing, regardless of the temperature.

Myth #4: People always panic during a fire.

Fact: Having a fire suppression system and emergency fire safety plan in place can help keep people level-headed.

Myth #5: Newer buildings are safer that older buildings.

Fact: Any fire, regardless of the age of your home or building, can be dangerous and potentially life threatening. Choose a fire suppression system to make your home or building as safe as possible.

For more information about fire safety myths, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

Enjoy Your Summer Safely | Corona, CA

Let’s face it – we all love the summertime fun that commences once the days get longer. The BBQs, vacations and recreational outdoor sports are just the beginning of the fun the summer season holds. But while we are enjoying ourselves with friends and family, it is important to keep fire safety in mind. Today, we are going to break down some fire safety tips to prepare for so that everyone has a great time in the summer sun…

When it’s time to grill:

  • Check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to ensure they aren’t blocked.
  • Do not overfill the propane tank.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
  • Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire.
  • Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
  • Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water ensure the fire is out.
  • Never barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

When you’re out camping:

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small, and don’t let them get out of hand.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
  • Never leave campfires unattended.

For more information about summertime fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

California Wildfires: Homes Burn in San Bernardino and Strong Winds Threaten to Stoke Other Blazes | Corona, CA

By Madeline Holcombe, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Jason Hanna, CNN

Updated 1:37 PM ET, Thu October 31, 2019

(CNN)Firefighters are trying to contain a wildfire that raced into part of San Bernardino in Southern California and engulfed a few homes overnight, and officials are urging more than 1,000 people to stay away while the battle goes on Thursday morning.

The Hillside Fire — which started sometime after midnight in the hills above San Bernardino — quickly consumed about 200 acres, officials said, and is one of at least 10 active wildfires in a state plagued by them in recent weeks.

Strong winds Thursday threaten to stoke the flames further. With gusts stronger than 50 mph expected in some areas, more than 17 million people in Southern California are under red flag warnings — meaning wind, humidity and other conditions are ripe for fires.

In northern San Bernardino, wind-driven flames moved from the hills and destroyed or damaged six homes and two other buildings by 7:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m. ET), San Bernardino County Fire Chief Don Trapp said.

Authorities rushed to alert residents as the flames swept into some neighborhoods overnight, stunning residents who’d been sleeping. No injuries have been reported.

Julien Cooper, 53, and his father were sleeping in Cooper’s San Bernardino home when he heard his phone ringing. He woke up and smelled smoke.

“Ten seconds later, I hear the doorbell and I already know what it is since we had a fire a week ago,” he told CNN. “It was the neighbor saying that there was a fire in the field.”

Cooper grabbed his dad and his dog, crossed the street to help the neighbor’s elderly mother evacuate and met up with a relative at a McDonald’s. Minutes later he returned home and grabbed some valuables — and his neighbor’s home was on fire.

Cooper took video of the neighbor’s house engulfed in flames. His nephew Henri Moser, who lives in Maine, shared it on Twitter. Cooper said he heard firefighters say they’d try to save his house, which had barely survived a wildfire 39 years earlier.

490 homes in San Bernardino evacuated

By mid-morning Thursday, firefighters had stopped the flames in at least one neighborhood where a home burned to the foundation, video from CNN affiliate KTLA showed. But fire was burning elsewhere near the city.

“This fire moves so fast that it’s imperative that people ‘evacuate when we ask them to,” San Bernardino County Fire Deputy Chief Kathleen Opliger said.

“It’s not a safe place to be.”

Evacuations have been ordered for about 490 homes in northern San Bernardino, accounting for about 1,300 people, the county fire department said. Hundreds of firefighters were there, trying to contain the flames, San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Chris Prater said.

The fire was a few miles away from Cal State San Bernardino, which was closed Thursday because the regional utility intentionally cut power as a precaution, hoping to prevent fires in the red-flag conditions. The campus lost power at 3:20 a.m. Thursday.

Just to the southeast, firefighters also were battling a blaze that erupted Thursday morning in Riverside County’s Jurupa Valley, prompting evacuations. With county fire officials reporting three homes there destroyed, workers at a pet adoption center prepared evacuations as flames licked nearby brush, an employee told KTLA.

Fires in the Los Angeles area

Thursday’s winds will be of no help to Los Angeles-area firefighters, who are battling several blazes.

The Getty Fire in Los Angeles, which began Monday, is threatening more than 7,000 homes, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Most evacuations have been lifted, and the blaze is 39% contained.

And about 40 miles northwest of the city, the Easy Fire broke out in Simi Valley Wednesday. Wind gusts of hurricane force — at least 74 mph — were reported at a weather station about seven miles north of Simi Valley.

The Easy Fire quickly consumed more than 1,600 acres in Ventura County and threatened 6,500 homes, officials said. The fire forced school closures and mandatory evacuations of about 30,000 people in Simi Valley, officials said. Three firefighters have been hurt.

Those evacuations included the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where the former President and his wife, Nancy, are buried. The facility appeared safe by Wednesday evening after firefighters responded.

The state has secured grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help fight several fires, including the Easy Fire and the blazes in San Bernadino and Riverside County, the governor’s office said. The grants allow affected local and state and agencies to apply for a 75% reimbursement of eligible fire suppression costs.

Power companies may be responsible for fires

The Simi Valley wildfire started near a Southern California Edison sub-transmission line, the power company said, adding that it has filed a report with the state Public Utilities Commission.

“SCE is conducting a review into the circumstances surrounding the fire, and will cooperate with all investigations into the origin and cause of the fire,” the company said in a statement.

The company said Tuesday that its equipment likely also contributed to the Woolsey Fire last November. The fire became one of the most destructive in the state, according to the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, killing three people and destroying more than 1,600 structures.

In Northern California, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) filed three reports with the California Public Utility Commission Wednesday indicating that its equipment may be involved in the start of three fires, according to officials.

Bill Johnson, CEO and President of PG&E Corp., told media the company has contacted the state about reports of videos possibly showing sparking powerlines at the Bethel Island and Oakley fires.

A third report was then filed linking its equipment to a fire in Milpitas, California.

“Troublemen observed wire down. They observed two houses, two cars, and a shed damaged by the fire. An on-site Milpitas Fire Department Investigator informed the troubleman that he was looking at the downed wire as a potential ignition source and collected a portion of the conductor into evidence,” PG&E said in a statement to CNN.

PG&E has been under scrutiny in recent years for the role its equipment played in several devastating fires across the state, including last year’s deadly Camp Fire, which killed 85 people. Over the last weeks, the utility has been enacting preventative shutoffs all over northern and central California.

California’s biggest fire is far from contained

North of the San Francisco Bay, the week-old Kincade Fire — the state’s largest active wildfire — has destroyed nearly 77,000 acres across Sonoma County and more than 260 structures, including more than 130 single-family homes, officials said.

It was about 60% contained as of Thursday morning. At the Sonoma County Airport, several airlines have canceled all flights for Thursday.

The Kincade Fire started October 23, but the cause is still under investigation.

The good news: Forecasters say winds in Northern California will weaken through Thursday, and more residents can go home.

CNN’s Cheri Mossburg, Joe Sutton, Holly Yan, Ray Sanchez and Dave Hennen contributed to this report.

For more information about fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

How the Rain Is Affecting Our Fire Season | Corona, CA

(CNN):  It’s called an “atmospheric river” — basically a river in the sky — that could unleash catastrophic amounts of rain.

And the major storm is barreling right toward the fire-scarred regions of Southern California, with a potential to trigger flash flooding, mudslides and significant debris flow.

The heaviest rainfall is expected Wednesday evening through Thursday, and officials have already ordered mandatory evacuations in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Up to 2 inches of rain have fallen in the burn scar areas since late Tuesday and the worst in Santa Barbara County is expected after dawn Thursday.

“That’s a concern when you put in the heaviest rainfall anywhere in the United States and put it right over Southern California, directly over burn scars,” CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.

“Some of the areas could see 6 inches of rainfall over 36 hours. That’s six to eight months of rainfall in 36 hours, right over what would be a significant Thomas Fire burn scar region,” he said.

The Thomas Fire, the largest fire in California’s modern history, ignited in December and burned about 281,900 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Santa Barbara County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order affecting about 30,000 people in extreme and high-risk debris flow areas ahead of the strongest storm of the season in that region. The mandatory evacuation there was effective from noon Tuesday for burn areas near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires.

The amount of rain and the intensity are enough to cause flooding even without the impact of the recent fires.

“We could experience localized flooding and road closures, which are not isolated to the burn areas. The threat of rock falls, mudslides and debris flow is high,” said Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations also took effect at noon Tuesday in Ventura County.

Los Angeles County officials ordered evacuations in areas affected by the recent Creek and La Tuna Canyon fires starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and warned other residents living in areas affected by recent fires to prepare for evacuations and street closures.

The large and powerful storm system across the eastern Pacific Ocean is expected to bring periods of moderate to heavy rain through late Thursday or early Friday.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow channels that transport water vapors outside the tropics. The one that’s saturating California is known as the Pineapple Express, because it brings moisture from the tropical Pacific near Hawaii and can wallop the West Coast with rain and snow.

The National Weather Service predicts rainfall rates between a half to three-quarters of an inch per hour, with rain totals of 5 to 10 inches in the foothills and mountains. This total is significantly more than during the January 9 debris flow, when there were 3 to 6 inches of rainfall across the region.

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Paul Vercammen, Monica Garrett and Madeline Scheinost contributed to this report.

For more information about fire season protection, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

Accepting patients from Chino, Ontario, Redlands, Moreno Valley, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Fontana and all surrounding areas.