Over the last two days, parts of southern California have been wrought by sudden, violent wildfires. This may sound eerily familiar, as other parts of the state faced similar, sudden onset fire emergencies earlier this year.
The southern California fires, the Thomas fire in Ventura County and the Creek and Rye fires in Los Angeles County, have been raging and swiftly heading toward areas that are heavily populated and full of rich cultural history. However, those facts don’t matter to fires.
Local officials have issued evacuation orders for places they believe these fires may be heading. Evacuation orders aren’t to be taken lightly and are only issued when the situation is serious. Ordering evacuations are difficult and important decisions for local officials, made with the health, wellbeing, and overall safety of area residents in mind.
To help the brave men and women who are on the ground fighting off the fires, our regional office in Oakland quickly issued fire management assistance grants to support resources like overtime pay and supplemental equipment. These grants are requested by states to help offset the costs of putting out the fires.
Unfortunately, the conditions that are fueling these fires, including strong Santa Ana winds (strong wind blowing into SoCal from inland desert areas1) and a lack of rain aren’t forecast to ease until later this week—Thursday at the earliest.2 Fire officials have stated that containing these fires will be a long process, given the persistent dry conditions, deemed “red flag” conditions by the National Weather Service. (Red flag warnings are issued when a combination of no rain or low humidity and wind combine to make an ideal environment for wildfires to start and spread quickly.3)
Our recommendation for those who are in the area is to monitor the news (whether on social media or via television or radio) for any pertinent updates from local or state officials, on evacuations, forecasts, or containment statistics.
For those who aren’t in the immediate area, there may still be some impacts. With the strength of the wind gust, smoke and ash from the fires have the capacity to travel great distances, potentially causing issues with visibility on roadways or difficulty breathing for humans and animals alike.
If you are in an area facing a mandatory or even a voluntary evacuation, text someone you know the location of where you are evacuating to and let them know when you get there. For some of the fires, Facebook activated its Safety Check function for those who have friends and family outside the area who may be concerned– utilizing this function can be a good way to quickly provide an update to a lot of people at once.
We’ve posted before about what you need when you evacuate and to boil it down, we recommend keeping at least a half tank of gas in your car at all times and packing a go-bag that you can quickly grab and head out with. With fires as rapidly moving as these, the situation is constantly changing. As the fires move and firefighters work diligently to contain and extinguish them, local officials will continue to be the best source of the latest information.
- Learn more about how to prepare for wildfires (via Ready.gov)
- Ventura County (http://readyventuracounty.org/)
- Los Angeles County Fire Dept (https://www.fire.lacounty.gov/)
- Los Angeles City Fire Dept (http://www.lafd.org/)
- More about FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grants (graphic)