San Diego fire officials warn of increased fire risk

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” wildfire warning Monday morning for the county, effective through Thursday, due to a forecast of strong Santa Ana winds. By midday, the federal agency had recorded gusts up to 65 mph in the inland valleys, 45 mph in the mountains, 35 mph near the coast and 31 mph in the deserts.

According to Cal Fire San Diego Unit Chief Tony Mecham, moisture levels of flora in the county are at critical levels.

“Any time we get below 100 percent, a fire will burn and will carry in the live fuels,” Mecham said. “When we get below 60 percent, we consider that critical fire behavior. We’re at 43 percent. We’re at the lowest recorded live fuel moistures that we’ve ever been, and we’ve been keeping these type of fuel statistics for over 100 years, so we’re 17 percent below critical.”

The state agency has dealt with roughly 220 to 250 blazes, including fires during peak seasons, during each of the last several years. As of Oct. 14, the agency has fought 415 fires in the county before the peak season of Santa Ana wind events.

Firefighting officials advise residents to take measures to safeguard themselves and their homes, including clearing flammable vegetation to create roughly 100 feet of “defensible space” around residences; developing an emergency evacuation plan; and planning in advance which important documents, heirlooms, photos and medications to quickly gather prior to any evacuation.

“When we get into the Santa Ana conditions, when we see smoke, if we issue an evacuation warning, you need to implement your plan,” Mecham said. “You need to start loading your car. You need to start getting ready to go.”

Authorities stressed that people should not have to wait for an official evacuation warning to clear out of their homes if a wildfire is burning nearby.

County officials also recommend that residents register their mobile phones on the county’s emergency-alert system, AlertSanDiego, and download the free SD Emergency App. Residents can learn more about fire safety and preparedness online at ReadySanDiego.org.

Categories: Local San Diego News