Brush Fire Underscores Importance of Readiness

An outpouring of firefighting resources stopped a brush fire on the hillside behind the Crescenta Cañada Family YMCA on Monday evening before it could spread and damage any structures.
A “first-alarm response,” limited the burn area to three acres, according to Stephanie English, L.A. County Fire Department spokeswoman, who said firefighters from the county and the cities of Los Angeles and Glendale assisted in the effort. The cause of the fire is being investigated, she added.
In all, seven engines responded, English said, as well as two superintendents, three helicopters, three camp crews, three patrols with off-road capabilities, two battalion chiefs and a paramedics squad.
“It’s a very large response,” English said. “And, 99% of the time, a lot of those units are canceled because a couple of engines can handle it. We’ll keep Engine 1 and 2 and everybody else can be released. In this case, with the red-flag weather and the location and [the fire] going into the brush, we kept all that equipment.”
La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Jonathan Curtis said he was impressed by and appreciative of the all-out response.
“We had a tremendous turnout by multiple agencies, which we really highly appreciate,” said Curtis, who said he drove to the site and watched water-dropping helicopters at work.
“It may have only been a three-acre fire, but it could have taken out structures, and there are numerous elderly people there. It really was one of those things: If it hadn’t been hit as hard as it was, it could’ve been a real disaster.”
Curtis said evacuation plans were in place, with an evacuation center being coordinated to open at La Cañada High School.
English said she and her colleagues continue to stress how important fire preparedness is, especially in a city such as LCF. At last week’s City Council meeting, Assistant Fire Chief Gregory Hisel said this young fire season has already produced more intense fires than he’s experienced in his 34-year career, and encouraged the audience to visit for readiness tips.
“We’re going to have several more Santa Ana winds that are going to come our way through the next couple of months,” English said, “so we are really pounding the message of ‘Ready, Set, Go’ in La Cañada, because it’s a city with one way in and one way out, and it has a canopy and underbrush.
“Even a structure fire that moves into brush, or has embers bounce and fly in Santa Ana winds, people are going to need to get out early and know which way to go without hesitating. There’s no room for hesitation on a windy day.”
And don’t delay, she said, about calling 911. If you see smoke, call immediately.
“People hesitate to call 911,” she said. “Sometimes people call my office and I tell them, ‘Hang up and call 911!’ If you see smoke, even if you’re unsure, our firefighters respond to things on numerous occasions that turn into nothing.”
Directing engines to one fire doesn’t mean there aren’t engines available to fight another fire elsewhere, she said.
“The engines are layered. We have a system,” English said. “Once those engines are leaving their station, we move up other engines to cover those engines. There’s a plan.
“And if it’s a windy day, seconds count. Sometimes it’s just a garbage fire, and sometimes, if it’s three acres, it can turn into something more quite easily.”

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