Tag Archives: wildfires

Dam Fire 40% Contained After Charring 217 Acres Above Azusa; Battle Continues Amid Heatwave | Corona, CA

by Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime

Posted: Jul 31, 2020 / 10:22 AM PDT / Updated: Jul 31, 2020 / 11:47 AM PDT

Despite blazing temperatures and difficult terrain, firefighters have increased containment on the Dam Fire which has burned more than 200 acres in the mountains north of Azusa, officials said Friday. The wildfire erupted Thursday afternoon around 1:45 p.m. in the 9500 block of North San Gabriel Canyon Road, near Morris Dam in the Angeles National Forest, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported.

As of Friday morning, the Dam Fire had burned 217 acres and was 40% contained. Firefighters are continuing to aggressively work on gaining the upper hand despite sweltering temperatures.

“The combination of hot temperatures, low relative humidities, locally gusty winds, and drying fuels will bring elevated fire weather conditions to the Dam Fire burn area today,” officials said on the wildfire’s InciWeb page.

More than 250 firefighters from several agencies responded to the wildfire to battle it from the ground. Video from Sky5 also showed aerial units dousing the flames with water from above. Nearby residents could hear the planes working overhead throughout the afternoon.

The fire grew quickly on Thursday afternoon, resulting in mandatory evacuations and road closures.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered around 4 p.m. for those in the area north of Morris Dam to Crystal Lake. Camp sites and recreation areas in the surrounding areas are also off limits.

“They are not typical residential evacuations ion that we typically see during these big wildfires,” Marc Peebles of the U.S. Forest Service told KTLA. “There are some special use cabins up there and I believe one of them had people in it, so they evacuated the folks out of there.”

Highway 39 was closed to all traffic at Old San Gabriel Canyon Road, as well as East Fork Road. The Azusa Police Department said the closures would be in effect through at least Sunday. Non-residents were not being allowed to go past El Encanto Restaurant. In addition to the heatwave, rockslides have also made the situation difficult on crews.

“As the slopes burn it loses the ability to hold back those heavy rocks, so we have had several rockslides that have come down on the roadways so CalTrans is here working with us,” Peebles said.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory in effect through Friday afternoon due to the Dam Fire as winds were expected to come from the southwest, which could push smoke to the northeast, toward Wrightwood and Mount Baldy. The cause of the wildfire remains under investigation.

|UPDATE| #DamFire Despite hot temperatures and steep terrain, your #AngelesNF firefighters were able to grow the containment to 40%. Overnight, we mapped the fire at 217 acres. pic.twitter.com/4iGsqJ2VBl

— Angeles_NF (@Angeles_NF) July 31, 2020

ANF Fire Chief Robert Garcia; “A very robust air and ground attack is holding back further spread. But tough days ahead in some of the steepest terrain in the Angeles, combined with a heat wave of 100-degrees-plus. Please give thanks to your firefighters.” #DamFire. Photo #air7hd pic.twitter.com/Q51kVvMJUv

— Angeles_NF (@Angeles_NF) July 31, 2020

**HWY 39 WILL BE CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC ** through at least Sunday. Please stay away from the area as non residents will not be allowed to continue beyond El Encanto Restaurant.#azusa #CityofAzusa #AzusaPD #fire #lafd #firefighters #canyon #roadclosed

— Azusa Police (@AzusaPD) July 31, 2020

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

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East Contra Costa Fire Urges Vigilance in Preventing Fires and Injuries Over 4th of July Holiday | Corona, CA

Press Release by ECT -Jun 26, 2020

Brentwood, CA — As we roll into the Fourth of July, hot, dry and windy conditions are once again expected and ECCFPD is asking everyone to do their part in preventing fires and injuries caused by fireworks. NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) states that throughout the nation over the last several years that approximately half of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks.

“Because our first priority is the safety of our community, it’s important to remind people what a fire-safe 4th of July means,” said ECCFPD Fire Chief Brian Helmick.

Contra Costa County (and Fire District) is a “fireworks-free-zone”; therefore, the possession or use of fireworks of all types and sizes (including Safe and Sane fireworks) are banned in the county and the Fire District (County Ordinance 44-2.002 and East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Ordinance 5601.1.3). The District includes the cities of Brentwood and Oakley Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen, Byron, Marsh Creek, and Morgan Territory.

“Compounded by the Fire District’s underfunded resources we need to do everything we can to prevent and protect against the threat of fires to our communities”, Fire Marshal Steven Aubert added, “Fire Service personnel will be out enforcing these laws with our allied Police agencies”, he said.  Any person who starts a fire from fireworks – even accidentally – can be held liable for the fire suppression costs as well as property damage costs.

Possession of illegal fireworks that explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner can lead to a possible fine of up to $50,000 as well as prison time or jail for up to one year.

“We appreciate that everyone wants to celebrate the Independence Day holiday.  We just ask everyone to please avoid the temptation of putting yourself and your neighbors at risk.” Fire Marshall Aubert stated.

The District wishes everyone a fun and safe 4th of July holiday!

Learn more at www.eccfpd.org.

For more information about 4th of July fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Crippling California’s Efforts to Prevent Catastrophic Wildfires | Corona, CA

Kurtis Alexander March 25, 2020 Updated: March 25, 2020 9:04 a.m.

California’s ability to prepare for a dry and potentially dangerous fire season this year is being crippled as the coronavirus pandemic prompts fire agencies across the West to cancel or delay programs aimed at preventing catastrophic wildfire. From clearing out undergrowth in forests to training firefighters to tamp out flames, local, state and federal fire forces are trying to move forward within new social distancing guidelines, as well as with potentially sick employees, but that’s making their work harder and sometimes impossible to do.

The U.S. Forest Service, which oversees more than half of California’s wildlands, announced last week that it was suspending all prescribed burns, one of the most effective tools for increasing California’s resiliency to fire. The state’s Cal Fire agency, meanwhile, says it won’t halt its vegetation management activities — at least at this point — but it is rethinking how, when and where they’re done.

Spring fire preparations are considered vital to readying California for the warmer, drier summer and fall. Wildfire experts worry that disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak will not only increase the fire threat in the coming months but also sap momentum from a yearslong effort to make sure the state can weather the types of mega-fires recently seen in Butte County and Wine Country.

“If we don’t increase prescribed fire, restoration thinning and managed wildfire, we will never get out of our current forest problems,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. “Suspending prescribed fire further puts us in a hole in terms of long-term activities to increase forest resilience to climate change, wildfire and drought.”

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the nation’s largest firefighting force, said they were halting their burn program indefinitely so that communities wouldn’t have to deal with smoke during new shelter-in-place orders as well as for the safety of employees. About 5,000 Forest Service firefighters work in California.

Those conducting prescribed burns routinely travel in groups to burn sites, often across long distances. The work itself is done in crews of up to 20 members. Health experts have advised people to stay at least 6 feet away from others to prevent spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, and the White House has issued guidelines discouraging gatherings of more than 10.

The suspension of the burn program comes as the federal government, in concert with states like California, was beginning to initiate new, aggressive goals for prescribed fire in response to deadly blazes like the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people. Such infernos have helped put a spotlight on the perilous, overgrown condition of the nation’s forests, and burning off the thick brush and dead trees has proved a cost-effective solution.

“A lot of people were looking forward to this year being a ramping up of prescribed fire,” said Malcolm North, a professor of plant sciences at UC Davis who works with the U.S. Forest Service in the Sierra Nevada. “My concern now is that we’re going to be more reactive to fire than proactive.”

In response to the pandemic, the U.S. Forest Service has also called off in-person fire training through at least April 3 and canceled meetings where planning and risk assessment is done for fire season.

Like many businesses, the federal agency has moved many work discussions and training sessions online. However, surveying the landscape for fire danger and learning how to drive a fire engine are tough to do via Zoom.

“Training that cannot be done virtually will either be conducted in smaller groups or a waiver may be given until the training can be completed at a later date,” said Jonathan Groveman, spokesman for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service, in a statement to The Chronicle.

The biggest challenge may lie ahead as making adjustments, including social distancing, only gets harder come fire season. It’s a reality that fire officials have just begun to ponder.

The big wildfires that burn in California typically draw hundreds, if not thousands, of firefighters into densely packed tent cities, where they work, eat and sleep together for weeks. Norovirusoutbreaks are common, and the more severe coronavirus would probably find ripe breeding grounds there.

If the virus continues to spread, as many medical experts expect, some firefighters might be too sick to make it to the front lines. Already, local fire departments have begun to report that some of their employees are infected by the virus or showing symptoms of the corresponding illness, COVID-19.

“The thing I worry about is firefighter health and wellness,” said Kelly Martin, the recently retired chief of Yosemite National Park’s fire program. “Our firefighting workforce is already stretched to the max in terms of the year-to-year response to these large fires where whole communities are being destroyed. The firefighters are already seeing a toll.”

Martin advises that residents in rural and wooded areas prepare for a less robust response from fire agencies this year. She encourages more home hardening for wildfire and clearing more vegetation around houses. “Don’t always count on the helicopters and the air tankers and the firefighters to be there,” she said.

In Grass Valley (Nevada County), a community in the Sierra foothills that has come together in recent years to address the area’s high fire risk, residents are trying to continue neighborhood fire-prevention work despite the obstacles posed by the coronavirus.

“We’re not going to have our April meeting, and we don’t know about May,” said Susan Rogers, 68, an organizing member of the Nevada County Coalition of Firewise Communities. “But we can put stuff on our website and link people to it. That’s how we’ll keep people updated for now.”

Officials at Cal Fire say they’re also continuing to help communities get prepared. They don’t plan to stop their house-to-house safety inspections, which they do thousands of each spring, nor curtail the work of crews that trim trees and cut fire breaks around homes.

Cal Fire’s academies for new and seasonal firefighters will go on as well. The agency expects to have close to 7,000 total firefighters at work during peak season. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but rest assured, we will respond accordingly,” said Scott McLean, spokesman for Cal Fire. “That is our job.”

Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kalexander@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kurtisalexander

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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.

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Calming Winds: The Thomas Fire Update | Corona, CA

By Melissa Etehad and Ben Poston / Contact Reporter

December 17, 2017 10:35PM  Reporting from Montecito, CA

Firefighters took advantage of light winds in Santa Barbara County late Sunday, mounting an aggressive attack directly on the massive Thomas fire’s western face a day after powerful gusts pushed flames toward homes along the coast.

Crews were in place to protect homes should a wind shift send the wildfire toward neighborhoods overnight, but authorities said that’s unlikely.

“The fire’s burning in open country right now, which is away from homes, which is exactly where we want it,” said Capt. Rick Crawford, a Cal Fire spokesman. Even so, he said, “We’ll always be in the ‘ready, set, go’ mode.”

Just a day earlier, stronger-than-expected winds kicked up and triggered an epic battle to save homes along the coast. Two homes in the Montecito hills were destroyed and about a dozen structures damaged during Saturday’s flare up.

But firefighters were able to protect about a 1,000 structures because of advanced preparations, officials said. Evacuations were also lifted for the Carpinteria area.

As of Sunday evening, the third-largest wildfire in modern California history was at 270,000 acres and 45% contained, officials said.

Fueled by Santa Ana winds, with gusts topping 70 mph early Sunday in some valley and mountain areas, the blaze burned a massive swath from Santa Barbara to Ventura. By late Sunday, winds had dropped down to 3 to 5 mph, with gusts of about 10 mph, Crawford said.

“We’re in pretty good shape for the time being,” he said.

The fury of monster fire leaves residents no choice but to flee

In Ventura County, firefighters concentrated their forces in the hills above Fillmore where the wildfire stayed within containment lines. Their efforts were hampered during the day by dry conditions combined with low humidity and winds of about 35 mph.

Red flag conditions were forecast in the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles County through Sunday evening as well as parts of Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Winds are expected to stay calm Monday and Tuesday at 10 to 20 mph, which will “look tranquil” compared with the weekend gusts, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Those calmer conditions should allow firefighters to focus on more defensive work such as bulldozing fire lines and dropping fire retardant. The humidity levels should also increase during the early part of the week — another help for fire crews, Hoxsie said.

But it will be a short respite, as strong winds and low humidity are expected to return on Wednesday in Santa Barbara County and Thursday in Ventura County, Hoxsie said.

In advance of the weekend flare-up, firefighters smothered portions of the Santa Barbara County hills with hundreds of thousands of gallons of fire retardant to keep embers from igniting spot fires. Some hillsides were intentionally denuded above Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, including in Romero and Toro canyons, to limit the potential damage.

Santa Barbara County Fire Division Chief Martin Johnson told reporters Saturday night that the aggressive prevention measures had paid off. Hundreds of homes were spared.

“Earlier this evening I was asked the question, ‘How many structures did we lose today?’ ” Johnson said. “That’s the wrong question to ask. The question to ask is, how many did we save today?”

As the winds began to die down in Santa Barbara early Sunday, fire officials said they were going to take advantage of the moment and extinguish smoldering hot spots in the Montecito area.

Rusty Smith, 57, said he fled his home on Gibraltar Road about 1 a.m. Sunday. He stayed with a friend nearby and set his alarm clock to wake him every 90 minutes so he could see if the flames had reached his house.

But firefighters managed to save Smith’s house and about two dozen others in the neighborhood.

“I wasn’t worried. You know when things are out of your control,” Smith said Sunday afternoon, as he swept debris from the driveway of his neighbor’s house. “But we know we were fortunate.”

Resident Lucas Merrick returned Sunday around noon to find that his home also had been spared. As helicopters dropped water on smoldering vegetation, Merrick said his hillside property is much more than a home for him and other residents.

“There’s a spiritual element,” he said. “That’s why people decide to live here.”

Not all homes were spared. On Sunday, a multimillion-dollar house on Park Hill Lane in the Montecito hills was still burning. From the outside, the Spanish-style structure appeared intact, but the interior was almost completely gutted.

All that remained was smoldering ash.

Despite the loss or damage of some homes in the Montecito hills, fire officials emphasized that more homes were saved than lost.

“This is the worst fire condition I’ve seen in the last 32 years,” said Capt. Dave Zaniboni, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. “It could have been a lot worse. We could have easily lost firefighters or had more homes destroyed. It was a great effort by firefighters.”

Orange County Battalion Chief Mike Summers huddled with his team of firefighters gathered in the parking lot of Cold Springs Elementary School to discuss the day’s plans. The fire had reached into the backyards of some homes on Saturday, and officials wanted to make sure that they were no longer threatened.

He said his crews would be patrolling along Coyote Road to clean up any hot spots.

Despite the long hours, Summers said his team was in good spirits and well-rested. He’s been on the fire for about a week and expects to work through Christmas.

“Many of the firefighters have kids and families waiting at home,” he said. “But we are here for the community. Our first priority is the community, and then our second is family waiting back home.”

Humboldt firefighter Jake Illiam, who was among the crews working in Montecito, said he was also missing his family. He said his daughter will turn 1 this week.

“Today was her birthday party,” he said.

Fire officials said that 8,300 fire personnel have been mobilized to fight the Thomas fire — the largest mobilization of fire crews to fight any wildfire in California history. Firefighting costs so far stand at $110 million.

By Saturday afternoon, Santa Barbara County appeared to be in recovery mode as evacuation orders were lifted for areas around Carpinteria.

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

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Prepare for Those Wildfires | Corona, CA

As the days begin to heat up, we need to take a moment to make sure we are prepared for the inevitable – wildfires. Wildfires are frightening because they can spread rapidly, with little-to-no warning. Commonly started by human error, they can quickly ignite and burn through tinder, spreading to nearby homes as well.

If you live in or near a fire-prone area there are various ways that you can help reduce the chance for severe damage to your home and property by keeping wildfire safety in mind and selecting materials that can help contain a fire rather than fuel it.

When designing your home, use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling. Make sure to treat any materials with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally-recognized laboratory. Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees and avoid more flammable pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.

When safety is concerned, regularly clean your roof and gutters to remove any debris, install a smoke detector on every floor in your home and ensure that you have at least a 100-foot radius of cleared vegetation around your home.

If evacuation is necessary, follow the instructions of local officials, shut all windows and doors and bring your disaster preparedness kit. The best way to be safe is to be ready so make sure you and your family is prepared for any type of disaster that may occur during these drier months. For more information about a disaster preparedness kit, contact your local fire station.

If you would like to learn more about wildfire protection, contact CJ Suppression Inc. at 888-821-2334 or visit www.cjsuppression.com for additional information.

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