South­land gets a pre­view of pre­ma­ture fire sea­son

Parched from years of drought and re­cent Santa Ana winds, the re­gion sees blazes erupt in five coun­ties.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Joseph Serna joseph.serna@la­

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia got an un­wanted pre­view of its pre­ma­ture fire sea­son Thurs­day as brush fires stoked by winds broke out in five coun­ties.

The re­gion is parched from years of drought and, most re­cently, Santa Ana winds that sucked up any mois­ture left from a re­cent rain­storm, said Phil Rawl­ings of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion.

“At the end of the day, we’re in Cal­i­for­nia, it’s a semi-arid area and we’re al­ready in four years of drought,” Rawl­ings said. “The grass … is just re­cep­tive to burning. We’re go­ing to have th­ese small starts and in­stead of stay­ing small, they turn and they get pretty big pretty fast. Quite hon­estly, this is par for the course.”

The first fire of the day burned about a quar­ter-acre of brush in Santa Paula in Ven­tura County. A few hours later, a larger blaze broke out in Whit­tier, quickly climb­ing a hill­side and burning three acres be­fore fire­fight­ers, as­sisted by wa­ter-drop­ping he­li­copters, halted its spread.

A six-acre blaze de­stroyed one house and dam­aged four oth­ers in River­side County’s Ju­rupa Val­ley, au­thor­i­ties said.

Th­ese days, fire de­part­ments are likely to throw more re­sources at a small brush fire early on to try to keep it from spread­ing and to min­i­mize dam­age, Rawl­ings said. Res­i­dents also have a role to play in min­i­miz­ing the threat of fire, he said.

“This isn’t where the for­est meets ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment ... this fire started along a road and the wind car­ried it,” Rawl­ings said. “It il­lus­trates the point that this can hap­pen if grass is not ... abated to pro­tect your struc­ture. You hate to say that, but it’s the truth of the mat­ter.”

It took more than 100 fire­fight­ers four hours to ex­tin­guish the River­side County blaze.

Mean­while, small brush fires also broke out in Gar­den Grove in Or­ange County and in San Diego. Fire crews quickly ex­tin­guished them be­fore they could spread.

“It looks like the fire sea­sons are start­ing a cou­ple of months early,” said Stu­art Seto of the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice. Tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to cool and winds should die down, but the hu­mid­ity is go­ing to re­main dan­ger­ously low for the com­ing days, Seto added.

Pho­to­graphs by KTLA

AN L.A. COUNTY he­li­copter drops wa­ter on a brush fire in Whit­tier that climbed a hill­side and burned three acres be­fore fire­fight­ers were able to halt it. Tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to cool, a fore­caster said.

THE WHIT­TIER blaze burns. Fire de­part­ments are now likely to throw more re­sources at a small brush fire early on to try to keep it from spread­ing.

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