by David DeMullé
The risk of wildfire in Sunland-Tujunga is a reality. Fire officials are particularly concerned about the rain that came just after the wildfires. As a result,“fire season” began early, as indicated by the recent brush fires in Calabasas, as well as Ventura County. We’ve had smaller fires in Sunland-Tujunga with some threatening local homes. Some firefighters, with many years of experience, have noted with concern that the hills are drier than they have ever seen. We can expect that conditions will worsen with extreme heat, low humidity and dry winds. It’s a given: we all must be prepared for the risk of fire.
We can’t depend on Stations 24, 74 and 77 being able to respond quickly enough if there is a fire in our neighborhood. We have to be prepared for the coming fires. “Brush clearance and weed abatement has made a huge difference in firefighters’ success in saving lives and property over the past years,” said Rush of Aspers Brush & Tree Service. “It was only less than two months ago that our mountainsides were ravaged by the Azusa and Duarte fires. In talking with US Forestry members, it was pointed out that the recent rains that posed flood and mudslide problems, also caused a greening of the hills and mountains. “Weed abatement and brush clearance must be planned,” said 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 flood risks. Remember that the same vegetation that must be cut-back for fire prevention also stabilizes the hillside, protecting your family and home from mudslides. 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. But 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 recent fires in Santa Clarita where hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes, where firefighters have reported that many neighborhoods had been spared because of strict compliance with Brush Clearance Rules and wise Landscape/ Vegetation Management, preventing fires from destroying their homes and taking lives.
Vegetation management as it relates to wildland fires 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 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.
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)
• Reduce fuel load by pruning the lower 1/3 of native brush, plants, and shrubs
• Give special consideration to problem trees such as Eucalyptus and Palms. Remove all leaves, limbs, litter and loose bark from the ground and trunks of the trees to a height of 20 feet
• For trees taller than 18 feet, remove lower branches within six 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
• Cut all brush, weeds and grass to three inches in height for a distance of 10 feet from all highways, streets, alleys and driveways
• Cut back overhanging tree branches above roads to provide at least 14 feet of vertical clearance
• Make sure your address is clearly painted on the curb for identification purposes
• Make sure that your address can be seen on your house or mailbox from the street, using numbers of at least four inches high and in a color that contrasts with the background
• Park vehicles in your driveway or garage, not the street • Maintain three feet of brush clearance around fire hydrants on or near your property
• NEVER park in front of a fire hydrant (It is unsafe and illegal to park within 15 feet of one.)
• Make sure that those working for you comply with all fire safety rules including contractors and construction workers
• Protect the community by reporting any vehicle parked in front of a fire hydrant. Call Parking Enforcement 24-Hours (213) 485-4184 or 311 from any land line in L.A.
Fire protection landscaping
The plants, trees, shrubs and ground cover that beautify your property are also fuel for fire. That, of course, is no reason to strip your land of vegetation. Indeed, it is also critical that the hillsides remain stable, and vegetation is essential to maintaining such stability. Plants and trees that have rooted on the hillsides provide this stability, without which the community would be washed away in floods. But it is nevertheless important to remember that plants are fuel for fire. Some forms of vegetation create high fire hazards, while others are fire resistant. An essential aspect of landscaping in the Canyon is therefore fire protection, with a vigilant eye towards flood control.
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 hard-scapes, such as pools, concrete, brick, or stone decks.