Driest Winter on Record Makes for Bad Inland Empire Fire Season

Riverside Firefighters check out the area's fire dangers.

It’s no secret—there hasn’t been a lot of rain this winter so far. And guess what—get used to it. There’s not much rain forecast for the rest of the winter, and winter lasts until March 20. Our rainiest months are usually February and March!

And while most people are celebrating and getting extra time in at the beach, planning Super Bowl parties out on the deck and putting the rain boots in the back of the closet, there are some of us who are worried. That little bit of rain we saw in the fall last year just created a burst of vegetation. The heat has now cooked the moisture out of that vegetation, and any other vegetation that’s still around trying to pretend it’s actually “winter”.

So this means that fire season will come early this year, due to an excess of dried plants, weeds, grasses and trees. This La Niña condition is the opposite weather pattern we’ve seen in the past called El Niño, which brings an extra-heavy dose of storms and rain. But the result is that we’ve received less than half the normal rainfall, and December’s snow-pack level was less than 10% of the month’s average. That’s not 10% LESS, that’s 10% OF the month’s average! Without that runoff later, we could be in some real trouble for wildfires early on in the year.

“The lack of winter snow may also lead to the possibility of drought returning to a large portion of the area by the beginning to middle part of spring… expect fuel conditions to dry significantly and support significant fires across the Southwest and the far Southeast,” say the forecasters from the National Interagency Fire Center. And Orange County Fire Authority Marc Stone says that there “is really no technical fire season in Southern California anymore. It’s become kind of a year-round process.”

We can’t control wildfires, but we can prepare for them in case of disaster. Since there are a lot of areas in the Inland Empire that are ripe for feeding a wildfire, we want everyone to be safe. Here are some tips for preparing for the worst:

  1. Create a Fire-Safe Landscape Around Your Home or Office: Clear out the 30-100 feet perimeter around your home or office.  In case of an emergency, this will be crucial for firefighters to safely and effectively access your home and to save it.  Time is crucial when a fire hits, so also make sure that your home address is clear and legible so that firefighters can quickly find your home.
  2. Assess Your Garden: Some common garden plants, like junipers or eucalyptus trees, are very flammable.  Consider replacing them with plants like white rockrose, ice plants or rose geraniums, which are not as flammable.
  3.  Examine Your Roofing: Winds can blow sparks from a wildfire and ignite your roof, so it’s important to make sure that your roof is constructed from the most fire-resistant materials as possible.  Remember to routinely remove debris from your roof and to shut attic vents using a metal screen in order to prevent possible embers from flying into your attic.
  4. Make an Emergency Box: Gather all of your important documents (financial papers, insurance records, home inventory, etc) and put it in a box where you can quickly grab in case of emergency. This would also be a good place to put a warm fleece/jacket and some sturdy shoes, in case you have to evacuate in the middle of the night.
  5. Review Your Insurance Policies: In case of a fire, your house should be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy, and your office building should be covered under your commercial property insurance.  But how much will your insurance cover for these damages? Don’t wait until disaster strikes to find out—review your insurance policies today and understand what is and what isn’t covered so you won’t be in for a shock later.

And remember, when the fire department tells you to evacuate, it’s not the time to start packing. At that point, the danger is serious and you need to high-tail it out of there. And don’t despair if you see the fire approaching your home as you watch from a distance, just keep our number on hand: 877-732-8471. We are the Inland Empire’s top fire and water damage restoration specialists. We will restore your home back to its original state quickly and efficiently. We are experienced in dealing with insurance claims, and we are standing by 24 hours a day to help you. Call now!

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