We’re just a few days into July, and already this year has seen one of the worst fire years on record in the West. The High Park fire, one of ten major fires that were burning in Colorado in June has recently been contained, at the cost of 259 homes, nearly 90,000 acres burned, and a human life.
The Waldo Canyon fire has burned 26 square miles, destroyed 350 homes, killed two people, and at this writing is still being battled by more than 1,500 firefighters. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes due to the extreme danger of the blazes.
Closer to home, both California officials and Woodside Fire Protection District personnel are warning that this past winter was very dry and that our local fire danger is elevated. Twice as many fires burned in California during the first five months of the year as compared to the same period last year.
Our own Woodside Fire District website reminds us that in July of 1985 a major grass and brush fire occurred in neighboring communities and nine homes were completely destroyed. A fire of that magnitude or greater could happen in your neighborhood. Lower than normal rainfall means the season starts with a lower moisture rating, which will dry out more quickly than normal during the summer months, if temperatures rise and winds are prevalent
To drive home this worry, there is the calamitous destruction of a home here in Woodside in June. As reported by Palo Alton Online, the three-alarm fire totally destroyed the home despite the more than 70 firefighters from six agencies who responded to the blaze. The home sounds like many in our Town – the Battalion Chief describes it this way: “The house was built into the side of a hill.” The home was rural, built into the side of a hill, on a one-lane road – with limited access to water. Our thoughts are with homeowners, and we are very glad that no one was seriously hurt in the fire.
Therefore, we are glad that local officials are trying to make things a bit safer going forward. The Town COWncil recently approved an ordinance imposing stiffer standards on new buildings and renovations. Going forward, ember-resistant vents will be required on new construction and when a majority of a building’s siding is replaced and requires vent replacement – despite at least one COWncilmember wondering if they were going to be “making people do something they don’t want to do” by requiring safe structures. The overall increase in costs were described as modest by Mayor Tanner, and he described how the previous standard would allow lit embers to get sucked into attics of homes and burn down homes that were outfitted with fire-resistant roofs.
The other local fire-related news – a hillside wildfire in Brisbane that burned 3 acres and a fire warning issued for the WFD itself are just more fuel for the fire. It’s clear that this year is shaping up to be more dangerous than usual.
It is important to remember it’s everyone’s responsibility to reduce fire danger by keeping their property well maintained and eliminating ladder fuels and making sure your home is as fire resistant as you can make it. Check out fire protection tips from the WFD
As a sobering reminder, here are images of fires burning across the West from space here.