Wildfire season ahead

Lessons we can learn from Waldo Canyon Wildfire in Colorado

Anza - Four days into the Waldo Canyon Wildfire in Colorado, strong winds were a game-changer.  Suddenly, thousands of homes were threatened and 32,000 people were on the move to stay out of the fire's path.

Photojournalist Chris Tarpening and I were on our way to Colorado to help our sister station KRDO with continuous coverage.  As soon as we arrived, we noticed many similarities to the wildfires we cover each year here in the Southland.  Perhaps the largest similarity was the extremely dry conditions.

Riverside County Fire Captain Rick Griggs said we need to be prepared.

"Right now, our forecasts are for an above-average fire season," he said.

We met with Griggs to compare the fire in Colorado to the ones we see here in Southern California.

Most importantly, two people died in Colorado because they apparently didn't heed the warnings to evacuate.

"When we come through and tell you it's time to leave or the law enforcement agency tells you it's time to leave, it's really time to leave," said Griggs.

In Colorado, firefighters faced a perfect storm of sorts, with dry conditions, hot temperatures and fierce winds.  Here at home, the forecast is just as ominous.

"Our fuel conditions are almost record level, we're seeing fuel moistures approaching critical areas," Griggs said.

In Colorado, we saw fire crews removing dry brush.  One couple returned home after being evacuated and found their home standing.  A lot of the credit goes to firefighters who cleared several feet of brush around their property as the fire burned toward their home.

Griggs said it's a good reminder, that people who own homes in the mountains need to clear their properties before a fire even starts -- all things we've heard before, and things that pay off when a fire strikes.

If you'd like some tips on preparing your property, you can go to readyforwildfire.org .


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