Did you know that many of California’s worst wildfires have historically occurred in the fall? Recent examples from last year include the Camp Fire which caused 86 fatalities and destroyed 18,804 structures and the Woolsey Fire which destroyed 1,643 structures and caused 3 fatalities. In fact, CAL Fire’s statistics show that 15 of the top 20 deadliest fires have occurred during September, October, and November.
Have you wondered why these destructive wildfires occur in the fall? The weather conditions that occur this time of year in California contribute to this threat. The Weather Channel has created a great video that explains how the winds and low humidity can increase California communities’ risk of loss due to wildfire.
Some of the factors which contribute to the increased threat include:
- Santa Ana winds and other strong offshore winds that are caused by high-pressure systems forcing fast-moving wind to blow from hot desert regions west over the mountains toward the ocean. These high winds can topple power lines and cause rapid spotting of a wildfire.
- Very low relative humidity (moisture in the air) due to hot dry conditions.
- Low moisture levels in the vegetation which can cause the vegetation to catch fire more quickly.
Homeowners can reduce their risk of loss to wildfire this time of year by making simple and low-cost improvements to their home and landscape. Some of these activities are typical fall home maintenance projects, such as:
- Removing dead branches from trees and shrubbery (fall is a great time of year to prune bushes and trees, reducing the ability for fire to move up from shrubs into trees);
- Removing leaves from gutters and roofs;
- Removing weeds (that are drying out) from around the home especially within the first 5 feet of the home; and
- Making sure vents are screened and cleared of debris
For more information about steps that you can take to reduce your risk of loss to wildfire, check out NFPA’s Firewise USA website for free resources to help you decide on some fall home wildfire safety improvement projects.