A Word With The Captain: Wildfires Not The Only Threat In Santa Clarita
Home fires spike during the holidays.
Continuing with a KHTS exclusive series of discussions with
Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain Doug La Count, we talked about fire
danger in Santa Clarita, both inside and outside the home.
The Obvious; Wildfires Love Santa Clarita.
Many homes in the SCV border large open brush areas. That,
coupled with the environmental disposition of this area, makes for a
potentially dangerous situation.
“As we all found out last year, and in 2003, we can get some
very large fires in our area,” said Captain Doug La Count. “It’s a natural fire
corridor, and the Santa Ana winds
tend to be channeled right through here.”
These fires can begin naturally, however it is not uncommon
for humans to be the source. Last year’s Buckweed fire was started by a child
playing with matches in Agua Dulce, and two weeks ago a swinging tire on a
playground was set on fire by experimental children. Several fires in the Los
Padres National Forest
were started by camp fires, and many others are caused by sparks from vehicles,
or discarded cigarette butts on the roadside. Preventing these occurrences
could help to stem the outbreak of wildfires.
Once a fire has been started, there is little residents can
do. That’s why the Los Angeles County Fire Department advocates for preemptive
action, asking residents to clear brush around their homes, clearly mark
addresses on the home, and remove low-hanging branches. This can help assist
fire crews should your home become a battle ground.
The Not-So-Obvious; Residential Fires Can Occur At Any Time.
While the major firestorms seem to get most of the attention
in Santa Clarita, residential fires are always a possibility, and they can be
much more dangerous.
Many times, the fires are also caused by people.
“Carelessness,” said La Count. “Often times people will turn
a pot on [the stove], and leave the house to go to the store and forget about
it. We get the call, and the house is charged with smoke.”
“You will see electrical problems,” he continued. “We
especially see this in businesses and commercial properties, where instead of
paying the money to run the proper conduit and electrical to bring it up to
code, they’ll run extension cords all over the place. Often times they become
frayed, you get a short circuit, and you get a fire going.”
An abnormally busy time for the fire department is the
“Candles lit, Christmas trees, those are big ones,” La Count
recalls. “The tree is dry, so that’s your fuel. All you need is an ignition
source, and many times that can be the wiring in the lights causing a short
circuit, candles nearby, or a fire place…there’s lots of causes. But the key is
to keep that dry fuel out of your house.”
La Count recommends checking your Christmas tree often.
“If you do buy a real tree, check the moisture. Break off
some pine needles and rub them in your hand…if they’re really brittle, then its
time to get rid of that tree.”
If a fire does break out, La Count says that the best thing
for residents to do is to get their family out immediately.
“A lot of people try to make a run for the valuables…there’s
no time,” he said. “Especially with a Christmas tree fire, that’s a lot of heat,
a lot of BTUs coming off of that tree and you’re going to get a fast moving
La Count always urges residents to have an emergency plan.
“Have a plan that if there’s a fire, everybody gets out, and
you all meet in the front yard or in your neighbor’s front yard.”
Home fires become really dangerous when residents aren’t
aware that a fire has started. This is why La Count says that smoke detectors
must be installed in every home, and residents should be changing the batteries
every 6 months.
Fires come in many forms, and it is with this in mind that
the city of Santa Clarita has designated October as Fire Preparedness month.
Check out other safety tips by clicking here.
To read the other stories from this seires, click below: