The risk of wildfire in Sunland-Tujunga and Lake View Terrace is a reality. Fire officials are particularly concerned about the recent rain that came just during the hot weather period. As a result, “fire season” is NOW, as indicated by the recent brush fires in Hansen Dam and Little Tujunga Canyon, as well as smaller fires in Lake View Terrace and off of the 210 Freeway. Some firefighters, with many years of experience, have noted with concern that because of the drought the hills are drier than they have ever seen.
We can expect that conditions will continue to worsen
with extreme heat, low humidity and dry winds. It’s a given, we all must be prepared for the risk of fire. And we can’t depend on Stations 24, 74 and 77 being able to respond quickly to our particular neighborhoods.
“Brush clearance and weed abatement have made a huge difference in firefighters’ success in saving lives and property over the past years,” says Rush Yakhaman of Aper’s Tree & Brush Service. “It was only less than a month ago that our Hansen Dam and Little Tujunga Canyon were ravaged by fire.”
In talking with fire captains during the recent Fire Training Drills, it was pointed out that the recent rains caused a greening of the hills and mountains. “Weed abatement and brush clearance must be planned,” says Rush. “It is important to both remove or reduce the dense vegetation that has just sprung up. So in planning brush clearance and vegetation management, consideration must be given to both fire and future flood risks.
Remember that the same vegetation that must be cutback for fire prevention also stabilizes the hillside, protecting your family and home from mud slides. Proper brush clearance requires moderation, to protect against slope instability.” We are all subject to the special Brush Clearance requirements for “Very High Fire Severity Zones.” Brush clearance inspections usually begin in May and Notices of Violation are in this month’s mail.
It is critical to remember that brush clearance is a year-round responsibility. We have a duty to each other to maintain our properties in a fire-safe condition. The importance of brush clearance vigilance has been well-illustrated during the Sayre, Marek and Station fires in the last decade, where firefighters reported that many neighborhoods had been spared due to strict compliance with brush clearance rules and wise landscape/vegetation management, preventing fires from destroying homes and taking lives.
Vegetation management as it relates to wildland fire refers to the total or partial removal of high fire hazard grasses, shrubs, or trees. Wildfire behavior is strongly influenced by vegetation type, terrain and the weather. Castor bean and sumac are vegetation that are ready to explode when lit because of the high concentration of oils contained in their leaves.
Rush reminds us of the following basic requirements for brush clearance within 200 feet of structures:
• Remove all dead materials from live plants, such as needles, leaves, and branches • Remove all dead trees, plants, and shrubs, but leave the lowest 3 inches and root structure to help prevent erosion
• All grass, brush and weeds must be cut to 3 inches or less in height, unless it is well maintained and irrigated landscaping (single trees, landscape shrubbery or cultivated ground cover, however, may be permitted)
• Give special consideration to problem trees such as Eucalyptus and Palms. Remove all leaves, limbs, litter and loose bark from the ground and from the trunk of the trees to a height of 20 feet • For trees taller than 18 feet, remove lower branches within 6 feet of the ground • For trees and shrubs less than 18 feet, remove lower branches to 1/3 of their height Roadways and Private Streets • Clear all flammable vegetation within 10 feet of roads and driveways • Make sure that your address can be seen on your house or mailbox from the street, using numbers of at least 4 inches high and in a color that contrasts with the background
• Park your vehicles in your driveway or garage, not on the street
• NEVER, NEVER, NEVER park in front of a fire hydrant
• Protect the Community by reporting any vehicle parked in front of a fire hydrant on a Red Flagged Roadway. Call Parking Enforcement 24-Hours (213) 485-4184 or 3-1-1 — “One Call To City Hall” — from any land line in Los Angeles. The plants, trees, shrubs and ground cover that beautify your property are also fuel for fire. With the drought conditions here in California and in particular in our community, this is a good time to plant fire retardant plants that are also drought tolerant. Now is the right time to consider making changes to maximize your safety. In terms of vegetation planning, the most critical space is the 100 feet surrounding structures on your property. On flat areas surrounding your home, you will help reduce fire hazards by planting and maintaining nonflammable soft-scape lawns, border plantings, flower gardens and vegetation beds, along with hardscapes, such as pools, concrete, brick, or stone decks.
• Clear all flammable vegetation from combustible fence lines How To Survive A Brush Fire In Sunland-Tujunga The LAFD has radically changed the way it responds to wildfires over the past five years. These changes have dramatically increased LAFD’s success in fighting wildfires. The key changes include the following:
• Brush Clearance — the LAFD Brush Clearance Program is the most significant change. Brush Clearance has been responsible for the LAFD’s recent successes in minimizing loss of life and property due to wildfires in areas like ours.
• Air Power Resources — new firefighting equipment (particularly airborne waterdropping equipment) has increased the LAFD’s ability to fight wildfires. • Protection Policies — LAFD now recognizes that evacuation is not always the best method for protecting individuals in areas like ours, where there is limited ingress and egress during emergencies. In many instances, “sheltering in place” is the safest, and most effective way to save lives. Sheltering in place means staying inside your home during a fire emergency, instead of getting stranded on the road, and impairing access for firefighting vehicles. LAFD’s New Wildfire Planning & Strategies LAFD also re-evaluated its operational resources and decided to “Take it to the people!” Evacuation routes have now been mapped. “No Parking” priority enforcement was established to keep roads open on high-risk “red flag” fire days. “Red Flag” fire condition criteria were established based on (1) Weather — temperature, wind, humidity; (2) Topography — steep slopes (because fire burns uphill most quickly); and (3) Fuels — trees, brush, grasses.
The most fundamental change in wildfire-defense strategy has now involved the decision to protect residential spaces by employing containment strategies, instead of trying to put out brush fires.
Wind-driven wildfires cannot be stopped but they can be directed around structures. Hence the containment strategy. During surveys of our hillside homes, various mutual assistance agencies drove through our streets mapping off those that would be hard to access in the event of a wildfire. Certain roads off of Reverie were designated as “Non-Defensible.” That means that fire equipment could not enter and expect to be able to retreat if the fire went out of control. With the help of LACo and LAFD waterdropping equipment, a margin of safety that was unknown before is now a reality. But is still boils down to the property owner maintaining his land. Residents are encouraged to contact companies like Aper’s Tree & Brush Service for cleaning up your area. Use of “day laborers” is not recommended as they do not have the proper skills and equipment to prevent fires as they work.
Be safe! Your life and those you love are at stake