Escondido Fire Chief Rick Vogt has some words for residents: It’s fire season!
“It’s again that time of year when the weather is obviously a lot warmer, humidity is getting dryer and we annually face east Santa Ana winds. Everyone who is from this area knows we need to pay attention to wildfire safety.”
The fire season is definitely heating up, said the Chief. “We’re seeing wildland fires through the state in the last few weeks. There are four fires in the state, one of them is 11,000 acres that is five percent contained. This is typical of this time of year. We can’t become complacent and our residents can’t become complacent.”
But how much is wildfire a danger in a city like Escondido? “The danger in Escondido is that we are surrounded by high fire areas. Vegetation that is closer to where people live is going to face more danger. The people in the middle have less than the people in the wildland interface, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to be prepared and aware.”
Although wildfire could affect Escondido on the periphery, wildfires can also cause power outages that can affect residents and businesses.
For individual homeowners, “The most important thing is sensible space, making sure that homes have clearance for dry flammable vegetation and dry leaves,” said the Chief. “One hundred feet is optimal, not empty land, but make sure that dry vegetation is removed. Trees should be trimmed six feet from the ground and should be away from the structure so the fire can’t jump from the grass to the tree to the home. That continuity is the key to defensible space.”
Every property is different, and the department has a wealth of information on its website. “We also can have someone come out and help a homeowner. We are happy to make recommendations. It not only protects the property and makes it a safer working environment for our firefighters, those with defensible space are making a contribution to help firefighters who are risking their lives to save property.”
During this season especially it’s important to be “aware.” “To know what’s happening and able to react to their plan (that they should have.) Pay attention to social media, news, and alerts. Most important is to register your phone with AlertSanDiego.com which is the region’s reverse 911. It automatically rings land line phones, but mobile phones must register with the site,” said Vogt.
He added, “We have another tech called Wireless emergency alerts, which goes out through cellphones, similar to amber alerts. We will push any sort of evacuation information out through both of those methods.”
Residents should be prepared to leave when asked to evacuate. “Have a plan, know what you would take and what items you would grab,” he said. “This information on how to be ‘ready, set and go’ is on our website. When asked to evacuate, do so early, do so when you are asked to, because getting roads cleared out is important and getting people out to those safe areas is vital.”
Recently, said Vogt, the state adopted standard evacuation terminology so all state agencies speak the same language. “In the past, when they talked about mandatory and voluntary evacuations, they didn’t always mean the same.” Now the same terminology is used throughout the Golden State. “There are now evacuation warnings, evacuation orders and shelters in place,” said Vogt.
A evacuation warning means there is a fire in your area. “You aren’t being told to leave right now but you should gather things and be ready,” he said. “It’s a good idea to evacuate early, especially with large animals. The warning is projecting out ahead that the new step could come at any time. The next is an evacuation order, which means you need to leave, get out of the area, to a temporary refuge point or an evacuation center. Shelter in place is when you are told to stay where you are at. Having people on the roads might impact one or more evacuation routes, and the incident commander might determine that the safest thing is to stay where you are at until told otherwise.”