In 2020, California had the worst fire season in state history. Due to extreme drought conditions, 2021 has already surpassed the number of wildfires in the first half of the year.
With only 40% of average rainfall received to date, live fuel moisture levels are far below the historical average. The region is looking at an increased and accelerated risk for wildfires, said L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.
“It is no surprise we have a year-round fire season,” Osby said at a press conference Friday.
The bone-dry dry brush has caused fire behavior not normally seen until the fall much earlier in the year.
For example, the Palisades Fire reached over 1,200 acres in May, which was propelled by decades of growth dried out from the drought.
The fire chief said this trend is “very problematic and troubling to first responders.”
What would have been a 10-acre fire this time of year, grows to over hundreds of acres, recently seen in the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita, Osby added.
Many Patches, One Goal
A brush fire in Southern California can quickly spread to multiple jurisdictions, including city and county, as well as federal with the Angeles National Forest.
This multi-agency response is crucial to preventing a small fire from compounding into a major incident, said Chief Brian Marshall, with the California Office of Emergency Services (OES).
Mutual aid started in California in the 1940s and has grown exponentially since its inception, according to Marshall.
OES provides nearly 300 fire engines to supplement staffing during high-risk events, including Red Flag warnings, which heighten the fire danger.
In addition to engines, the state also provides extra firefighters, helicopters, hand crews and dozers, giving local agencies a “fighting chance” to battle the record-breaking blazes.
“We have a saying in California, ‘no one stands alone,’” Marshall said. “No matter the agency or patch.”
As departments prepare for a potentially significant fire season, fire officials are urging the public to do their part.
L.A. County Fire has the “Ready, Set Go!” program for residents to prepare a wildfire action plan.
“Climate change has made fire season year-round and increased our ever-growing number of wildfires,” Osby said in an online message to residents. “Firefighters and residents alike are now constantly on heightened alert for the threat of wildfires.”
The program provides critical information on creating defensible space around a home, retrofitting homes with fire-resistant material, and preparing to safely evacuate well ahead of a wildfire.
For more information on “Ready, Set Go!,” visit here.
LAFD Implements ‘what3words’ Tool For Locating Callers During Emergencies
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) is adopting what3words as a tool to help locate callers faster in an emergency, taking out the “search” from search and rescue.
What3words divided the world into 10-foot squares and gave each square a unique combination of three random words, which assists first responders in locating a call, according to Margaret Stewart, spokesperson for the LAFD.
Being able to locate a caller during an emergency is essential and the faster the location is confirmed, the faster help can be dispatched, Stewart said.
However, finding a precise location can be near impossible if the caller is in a remote area with no address, no obvious landmarks, or on an unnamed stretch of road or trail.
LAFD Battalion Chief Scott LaRue said, “what3words has been a game-changer for us. It has literally taken the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue.”
The department has built what3words into its Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Dispatchers at Metropolitan Fire Communications (MFC) are able to quickly create an incident precisely at the caller’s location despite no associated address.
The location can then be shared with responding resources on their mobile data computer maps, which means helicopters and ground resources are able to quickly navigate to a caller’s exact location, according to Stewart.
If a caller’s location information is not available, the dispatcher is able to send the caller a text message with a link. When clicked, a webpage is opened showing the caller’s current what3words location.
Each what3words address is unique to the 10-foot square anywhere in the world.
For example, “///hammer.silly.storms” will take you to the entrance of the Griffith Observatory, while “///result.gear.snaps” will take you to the base of the H in the Hollywood sign.
During a six-month pilot program, dispatchers at MFC used the system around 300 times for a variety of emergency calls across the city.
“For instance, a dispatcher received a cell phone call from a lost hiker. The dispatcher located the person in distress on a map and simply clicked on the map to retrieve the three words. The words were entered into the system and emergency crews quickly located the individual on a remote hiking trail,” Stewart said.
In February, a small airplane crashed into a storage container on Terminal Island. An individual who called 9-1-1 could not properly describe the area to MFC dispatchers. The department used what3words to identify the exact location.
In April, a couple was hiking with their 8-month-old and became stuck after venturing off the trail and slipping into a ravine. The only location information the caller was able to share was that they were looking for a hidden waterfall.
The dispatcher sent a text message with the FindMe link and was able to retrieve their what3words address and then coordinate the needed response.
The app even works offline, making it ideal for use in remote areas that might have a poor internet connection, such as state parks and lakes that are enjoyed by hikers, tourists and lovers of the great outdoors alike where accidents can occur, according to Stewart.
What3words has proven an important tool in allowing emergency services to locate callers and incidents in thousands of instances across the globe.
The length of time between a call for help and the arrival of emergency medical services in the U.S. is about eight minutes, however, it rose to 14 minutes in rural areas, with roughly 10 percent of people waiting nearly 30 minutes, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
But when it comes to fires, with many happening in regions filled with hills and canyons, it could take longer.
The goal of what3words is to cut down that response time, potentially saving lives.
“I am proud that we are the first major Metropolitan Fire Department in the nation to use this cutting-edge technology,” said LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas in a statement. “Since the pilot began, we have responded to nearly 300 incidents using the platform. When seconds matter, this innovative tool has proven to be a beneficial resource for firefighting and rescue operations.”
For more information on what3words, visit here.
No Such Thing As ‘Safe And Sane:’ Officials Remind Public About Danger Of Illegal Fireworks
Public safety officials are once again reminding residents of the danger of illegal fireworks ahead of the Fourth of July — one of the busiest days of the year for fire departments.
This week, representatives from the City of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County gathered at Fire Station 126 in Valencia to discuss the potential consequences of fireworks with a pyrotechnic display,
In 2020 across L.A. County, firefighters responded to over 39 reports of blazes related to fireworks, a “stark contrast” from 2019 when there were only three, said Fire Cheif Daryl Osby.
“When you look around the hills of Santa Clarita and in the rest of the county, you can see that they’re dry,” Osby said. “We’ve only had one-fourth of the normal rainfall here in our district.”
This year, extreme drought conditions have the potential to spark even more fires.
“They’re crisp and dry,” Osby said. “They’re bone dry. We’re seeing measurement now that we would typically see in late August, early September.”
The fire chief and Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda are urging residents to attend professional fireworks shows, with safety measures in place.
“There are many fun ways to celebrate the Fourth, but I must urge you to exclude fireworks displays and possession from your plans,” Miranda said.
The mayor reminded residents even so-called “safe and sane” fireworks are illegal in Santa Clarita.
In addition, the “safe and safe” pyrotechnics are illegal in the unincorporated areas of L.A. County, the City of Los Angeles, Burbank and Lancaster.
“Safe and sane” fireworks can be used in certain areas of Palmdale from 12 p.m. on June 28 through 12 p.m. on July 5. Any firework that shoots up in the air or explodes is illegal anywhere in Palmdale.
Personal fireworks are known to negatively affect children, pets and combat veterans said Nicholas Prange, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).
The L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control is reminding pet owners to take extra precautions to protect their animals during the holiday.
“Independence Day is a time of celebration for humans but not for animals. Fireworks can terrify our beloved pets, and they may become injured or lost as a result. Please make sure your pets are safe and properly identified in case they flee, and keep a close eye on your pets to monitor their behavior and stress level” says DACC Director Marcia Mayeda.
Animal care officials encourage owners to have their animals collared or microchipped in the event they get out during the fireworks.
Residents are also encouraged to call the non-emergency numbers of local police stations, not 9-1-1.
For a list of professional firework shows in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys, visit here.
Fireworks Buyback Program To Be Held In San Fernando Valley
The City of Los Angeles is expected to hold a fireworks buyback program in the San Fernando Valley ahead of the Fourth of July.
Residents are able to anonymously surrender their fireworks from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the Brand Park parking lot in Mission Hills, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore.
The City is expected to compensate participants with tickets and gifts, sponsored by the L.A. Dodgers, Food 4 Less, Target and NBC Universal, with the value will be determined on-site.
Those participating are requested to transport the fireworks in the trunk of their vehicle, according to organizers.
“As a reminder, last year with the pandemic and the necessity of canceling public-sanctioned fireworks shows, we saw a 72% increase in calls for service,” Moore said Tuesday.
The pilot fireworks buyback program is set to focus on the San Fernando Valley, which accounted for nearly half of all calls, according to the police chief.
On May 5, the L.A. City Council approved a motion aimed at preventing illegal fireworks, including the buyback program and a reward program.
Public safety officials are urging members of the public to view professional Fourth of July firework displays as personal fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles County.
Even the so-called “safe and sane” fireworks are illegal in many jurisdictions including unincorporated areas of L.A. County, the City of Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, Burbank and Lancaster.
Personal fireworks are known to negatively affect children, pets, and combat veterans. In addition, the wildfire danger is ever-present, said Nicholas Prange, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).
“We encourage all to seek public fireworks shows, which will be more readily available than they were last year,” Prange said.
For a list of firework shows in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys, visit here.