The summertime usually means barbecue picnics, pool parties and family vacations.
But for South County firefighters, the summer is all about preventing and putting out wildfires.
Currently the Chula Vista Fire department deployed eight fire fighters to help combat the Alamo fire in San Luis Obispo County, the Wall Fire in Butte County and the Whittier Fire in Santa Barbara County.
National City sent two battalion chiefs on strike teams to assist in fighting the Alamo and Whittier fires.
The months of July, August and September are usually known as fire season but in recent years, South County fire officials say fire season has turned into a year around affair.
“I would say for the last few years in California – especially Southern California- fire season has turned into a year long (season),” said Darrell Roberts, the president of the Chula Vista firefighters’ union. “…Regardless of the month of the year we really have to be prepared in our region for a year round fire season.”
National City fire officials agree that there is no off-season for wildfires.
“Living in Southern California all year long is really considered fire season because we are such a warm and aired place,” said Frank Parra, National City’s Director of Emergency Services.
There are a few reasons why fire season has become a 365-day season.
The recent onslaught of record high temperatures, a significant drought and easterly winds that change the size of the wind, Roberts said.
Roberts said the three summer months are normally the hottest, driest months where weather patterns start changing.
Chula Vista, particularly eastern Chula Vista is susceptible to wildfires because of its Wildland Urban Interface where homes sit near canyons.
National City is already built-out so it does not have a large Wild land Urban Interface but there are a few canyon-like areas in the city that are prone to wildfires, Parra said.
Roberts said Chula Vista residents, especially those living near a canyon, should have a ready, set, and go plan in place. As far as being ready for a fire, residents should maintain a defensive space around their home by clearing brush, not stacking combustibles and removing any dead or dry leaves for their roofs and rain gutters.
“We just want to make sure our residents have a nice clean area around their home,” Roberts said. “That would be a huge help from us because as they go into the areas they will actually triage homes and look at which homes they can safely protect.”
Roberts said families should create an emergency plan detailing where to meet in case of a fire, have an emergency to go-kit with personal belongings, photos and financial documents.
In preparing for fire season, Chula Vista firefighters undergo an annual training that is specific to wild land areas.
National City has taken a proactive approach when it comes to fire season. The city has contracted with a company called Fire Protection Services for them to go around the city making sure homes do not have over grown trees, a maintained yard and a clean area. If homes do not meet this criteria than they will receive a notice from the city saying they have 30-days to comply. If a resident does not comply after those 30-days the city will send one last warning before the city cleans up the area themselves and puts a lien on the house.