It's wildfire season! Here's how to prepare for the worst

Posted at 4:48 PM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 19:48:29-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)--Wildfire season has arrived early this year thanks in part to winter's record rainfall. Now county officials want to make sure all San Diegans are prepared after two fires ripped through the region the past few days. 

First, the "Gate Fire" charred more than 2,000 acres in East County last weekend followed by a 10-acre brush fire in Santee on Monday. 

CalFire spokesman Isaac Sanchez said Sunday that California's rainfall, which pushed much of the state out of the drought, is now contributing to the rapid rate of spread for some of the state's wildfires. 

The rain this winter watered grass and weeds and now all of that brush is drying out, becoming fuel for wildfires. 

"It's the heavy grass load that we're seeing that's a direct result of the heavy rains that we received this winter. It's like this up and down the state right now," Sanchez said. 


Today county representatives, along with CalFire, held a joint press conference to emphasize the importance of creating defensible space around properties and making sure families know what to do if a wildfire were to spark near their home.

What is defensible space? 

Defensible space is the area around any structure where combustible vegetation (dry grass, brush, weeds, litter and waste) can spread fire. This space acts as a barrier between that structure and an advancing fire. 

Click here for more information on defensible space

County leaders want San Diegans to do their part to provide defense against wildfires by following these steps:

  • Know your neighborhood’s wildfire risk
  • Clear 100 feet of defensible space around your home 
  • Use fire-resistant landscaping
  • Create a family evacuation plan that includes being prepared to evacuate in 15 minutes
  • Register for Alert San Diego, a notification system that sends fire and evacuation notifications to residents via text or e-mail 

Holly Crawford with the County Office of Emergency Services says San Diego county has more firefighting aircraft than any other local region in the country. The county has invested more than $400 million in firefighting resources since the devastating 2003 wildfires.

“From a local government perspective, we’ve invested and we’re incredibly prepared to fight fires,” said Crawford. “So our message is, we’re doing our part and we want homeowners to do their part as well.”

“First responders make up less than 1 percent of our total community, they can’t do everything themselves.”

How do I create a family disaster plan? 

If your family gets an order to evacuate, Crawford said everyone needs to be ready to go with important items in 15 minutes.

“I’m not just talking about items to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, I’m also talking about family heirlooms think about the things you can’t replace, family pictures, things passed down from generations in your family,” she said. “If you only had 15 minutes you don’t want to spend that 15 minutes trying to dig for things that are important to you.”

Here's how to prepare ahead of time for an evacuation: 

  • Create an in-depth family disaster plan at ReadySanDiego
  • Sign up for Alert San Diego
  • Have fire extinguishers on hand
  • Make sure everyone knows where the utility shut of controls are
  • Plan and practice several different evacuation routes
  • Designate an emergency meeting location
  • Put together an emergency supply kit 
  • Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers
  • Have a portable radio

Sandy Coronilla is a KGTV digital producer. Follow her @10NewsSandy