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Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson: Prevent and Prepare for the Next Fire

With the smoke having cleared from the Springs Fire, experts tell us it’s not too early to begin doing all we can to prepare for the next blaze.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson

Predictions are that it’s going to be a dire and potentially deadly year for fire. Low rainfall levels have led to tinder dry conditions typically not seen until late summer.

Though it’s only the second time since 1948 that the state has seen such an early start to the fire season, Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested that this year may be indicative of a “new normal” for our state. With climate change, our weather is intensifying, creating dry, hot conditions that are ripe for serious fire conditions.

With the possibility of multiple, simultaneous wildfires straining firefighting resources throughout the state this summer, it’s vital that we continue to do all we can to prevent fires and be prepared.

More than ever, the tips that state fire officials and Santa Barbara County and Ventura County firefighters give for fire prevention and preparedness are worth repeating and heeding. They include:

» Creating defensible space. Residents who live close to wildland areas, in the so-called wildland urban interface, are at ground zero for fire threat. Without a single home lost, Ventura County fire officials say the Springs Fire showed the success of maintaining defensible space. Residents should continue to be vigilant in clearing brush, dead leaves and debris to maintain a required 100-foot buffer to increase the chance of their home surviving a wildfire.

However, residents are urged to avoid clearing brush on dry and windy days or red flag warning days. Those conditions and power tools don’t mix, as we learned from the Jesusita Fire in 2009.

» Developing a wildfire action plan. Create and discuss an evacuation plan with your family that includes a designated emergency meeting location outside the fire area; identify and practice several escape routes from your home and community; and designate an out-of-area friend or family member as a single point of communication in case you become separated.

Make sure that family members know where your gas, electric and water main shut-offs are located and how to safely shut them off. Assemble an emergency supply kit, including three days of nonperishable food and three gallons of water per person, and keep it handy so you can take it easily with you if you have to evacuate.

» Keeping the “six Ps” ready in the event that evacuation is required: These items include people and pets; papers, phone numbers and important documents; prescriptions, vitamins and eyeglasses; pictures and irreplaceable memorability; personal computer hard drive and discs; and “plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash.

Low humidity, high temperatures, and sundowner and east winds are indicative of fire weather in our area. When and if a fire occurs, residents should follow the instructions of emergency personnel, listen to the radio and do their best to remain calm. But if a fire does pose a threat to safety, don’t wait for evacuation orders. Follow your wildfire action plan, and find your way to safe ground.

Click here for more information.

— State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is the chairwoman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management in the California Legislature. She represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

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