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Local News

Santa Barbara County Enters ‘High Fire Season’ with Emphasis on Preparation

May 9 marks beginning of most dangerous time of year for wildfires, and authorities ask residents to be prepared for worst

A Santa Barbara County Fire Department hand crew gathers before a recent training exercise at Lake Cachuma. With the arrival of high fire season, the agency is increasing the number of crews, engines, helicopters and other response resources on hand for deployment.
A Santa Barbara County Fire Department hand crew gathers before a recent training exercise at Lake Cachuma. With the arrival of high fire season, the agency is increasing the number of crews, engines, helicopters and other response resources on hand for deployment. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

As of Monday, Santa Barbara County officially has entered the season of the year most susceptible to wildfires.

With summer quickly approaching, the county Fire Department has declared the start of “high fire season.”

In preparation, the Fire Department is increasing the number of crews, engines, helicopters and other response resources that will be available to tackle the season’s fires, according to Capt. David Zaniboni.

All residential-burning and hazard-reduction permits have been suspended as well.

The declaration’s main takeaway is preparation. Clearing tree branches, vegetation debris and dry brush reduces the chance of a fire leaping onto a residence, and outfitting houses with nonflammable and fire-resistant materials like brick and stucco reduce the dangers from wildfires burning nearby.

The Fire Department also recommends storing extra water and food, first-aid supplies and other emergency equipment, as well as maintaining an escape plan in case of emergencies.

Using smoke detectors; securing matches, lighters and other flammable items; and educating children about the dangers of fire are highly encouraged fire-prevention measures.

The county fire agency also maintains a planning and education strategy called “Ready! Set! Go!” that outlines how to “harden” one’s home from fire, create a surrounding “defensible space,” how to remain prepared at all times, and what to do as a fire approaches.

It may seem incongruous given how green the hills and mountainsides are after the winter rains, but the combination of severe drought and record-high temperatures in California has effectively lengthened the duration of fire season.

Last Thursday, marked the seven-year anniversary of the start of the 2009 Jesusita Fire, which burned more than 8,000 acres in the foothills above Santa Barbara very early in the fire season.

Eighty homes were destroyed in the 13-day wildfire, which required more than 4,500 fire personnel and 490 engines in total and cost $20 million.

The fire was a stark reminder for Santa Barbara residents of how early in the year devastating fires can erupt.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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