MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
July 3, 2009 7:22 AM
Fire season is now considered year-round in Santa Barbara and the summer months bring the highest danger level to the area, according to Fire Captain Dave Sadecki.
"We're always in fire season," said Captain Sadecki. "Because of the frequency of fires in our area, we now evaluate it in levels, and we've been at the high level since June 15."
Capt. Sadecki said that the combination of heat, lack of rainfall and low levels of moisture in vegetation is the reason Santa Barbara is now at such risk.
"We've been in a three-year drought," he said.
But, he reminds, there are ways that community members can protect their homes.
"We recommend that people look around their homes, continually keep them updated, keep 100 feet of clearance around their homes and keep their gutters clear," said Capt. Sadecki.
The fire department also asks that residents keep their driveways clear so that in the event of an emergency, a truck can get as close to a structure as possible.
"We look for a box 12 feet wide and 13.5 feet high to drive a fire truck through," said Capt. Sadecki.
Something that many may not consider is the visibility of an address from the road.
"Make sure it's visible from the road so we can get there in an emergency," said Capt. Sadecki.
Santa Barbara residents minimized fire damage in the Tea and Jesusita fires by complying with such regulations.
"The folks of Santa Barbara have been very good historically with that," Capt. Sadecki said. "If it weren't for that, we could have lost more structures."
It is recommended that people maintain precautions year-round and not wait until summer because waiting might make the project too overwhelming or, worse, too late.
"We really want people to chip away at it all year," said Capt. Sadecki.
Because the fires have happened in such close sequence, fuel for the fires is running low.
"There have been fire breaks," said Capt. Sadecki. "I have seen pictures in which the black of the Jesusita fire burned right up against the green that just started growing from the Tea fire."
He said the landscape has significantly changed due to the blazes.
"The vegetation that burned was from like 1964," he said. "It was 20 feet high, and now it's almost like a moonscape. We'll have ten years of low vegetation levels now."
Because July 4 is fast approaching, Capt. Sadecki emphasized the importance of fireworks safety.
"Attend a public display to enjoy it in person," he said. "Amateur fireworks can be dangerous and sometimes deadly. Leave the fireworks shows to the professionals."
The fire department will increase its level of staffing today through Sunday, as the weather is predicted to be warmer and drier than normal, according to a press release from the county's fire department.