Public Safety

Recent Rains Did Not Dampen Fire Risk

If you thought the El Niño rains this season lowered the region’s wildfire risk, you’re going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, they may have done the opposite: increased the fire hazards. 

Enough rain has fallen to sprout thicker-than-usual wild grasses and weeds in open spaces, the backcountry and likely your own backyard. This growth can pose a problem, serving as “fuel” for wildfires and helping strengthen flames.

So what can be done? San Diego County residents can get wildfire ready and reduce such risks, County and fire officials said Thursday.

“The threat of wildfires is a fact of life in San Diego County,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Roberts. “Experience has shown us that those who maintain low-fuel defensible space around their homes better protect their property, and the lives of those who will defend it, against fire.”

“Be prepared, everyone. It looks like we’re entering a tougher-than-usual wildfire season due to our thick grass and other fuels across the region,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, at a media briefing held at CAL FIRE’s local headquarters in Rancho San Diego. “Now is the time to start trimming back brush and take other steps to protect your family and property. What you do this spring to prepare your home could make a huge difference when wildfire season hits.”

San Diego County Fire Chief Tony Mecham, who also serves as CAL FIRE San Diego Unit Chief, said CAL FIRE has staffed up the stations in the unincorporated areas a few weeks earlier than usual and has air tankers assigned to the County. The fire season could be challenging due to the abundant “fuels” or grasses that have risen around the region. These plants may be green now but will turn brown soon due to the enduring drought.

“Please do not be fooled by the recent rains,” Mecham said. “Complacency is dangerous. We are still in severe drought with levels well below normal rainfall, which has created hazardous conditions in San Diego County.”

To learn more about how to better safeguard your family and property, check out the Ready, Set, Go: Personal Wildland Fire Action Guide and visit ReadySanDiego.org or ListoSanDiego.org in Spanish to prepare for wildfires and other emergencies.

It’s important that residents stay connected and informed before, during and after emergencies, said County Office of Emergency Services Director Holly Crawford. She suggested that residents register their cell phones and email addresses with AlertSanDiego and download the County’s free SD Emergency App in English or Spanish. The app also offers information in American Sign Language and in a text size that is adjustable. The County also posts emergency information on Twitter at ReadySanDiego or ListoSanDiego (in Spanish).

“Residents can get ready for any emergency by taking steps now to connect with official emergency notifications, assemble an evacuation kit, and practice what to do if officials advise you the area is no longer safe — or if there is a threat to your home while you are not home,” Crawford said. “Find a family disaster plan template on ReadySanDiego.org or on the app and start planning how you, your family, neighbors and pets will all get to a safe location if necessary.”

Michele Clock is a group communications officer with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact