As I left Southern California for Trinity County in Northern California to teach a workshop about Firewise principles, I saw a large plume of smoke. As reported by the UPI.com, 3,600 acres have already burned in the Powerhouse Fire as of Saturday north of Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita area and in the Angeles National Forest. Two hundred and twenty five homes were evacuated and major power transmission lines were threatened. There has been one structure destroyed and at least one injury reported. Another California fire, the White Fire, burned 2,000 acres and is believed to have been started by a legal campfire in the Los Padres National Forest. "The White Fire could have been avoided if this person or persons paid closer attention to their cooking fire," said Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith. In the Santa Fe, New Mexico area a fire has burned 2,500 acres in the Santa Fe National Forest. A total of 134 homes have been evacuated.
It struck home to me once again that it is not a matter of if a wildfire will occur, especially here in the West, but when. The current fire activity underscored the importance of the goals of the Trinity County Firewise workshop: to help homeowners become more informed and therefore better prepared before the smoke appears on the landscape. The workshop presentations focused on ways that homeowners can make their homes and surrounding landscapes much safer during a wildfire event. Scott Alvord, Weaverville Fire Chief, began the workshop talking about how homeowners can be better prepared for a wildfire event. Ryan DeSantis of the University of California Cooperative Extension spoke about maintaining defensible space.
I had the privilege of sharing with residents how they could harden their homes and spoke about also looking at their surrounding landscape and Firewise Communities. A community called Burnt Ranch within Trinity County is working towards becoming recognized under the Firewise Communities/USA program. The recognition program enables communities to assess their risks, prioritize an action plan, host a Firewise educational outreach event and take active steps together to lessen their risks to wildfire. It is a program that works! Time and time again, homeowners have been able to return to homes that have survived wildfire events because they proactively fought the fire before the smoke.
The current fires are an important reminder that there are many simple things that homeowners can do to protect their homes and lives. We can take steps now to lessen the risks to our homes today! To learn how, visit www.firewise.org.
Photos by Faith Berry: Top - View of Los Angeles Fire from Gorman; bottom: Trinity County Firewise Workshop at the Weaverville Fire Hall