The National Weather Service announced a “Hazardous Weather Outlook” for the county as temperatures hit triple digits earlier this week, signifying a heightened risk for brush fires in the area.
The scorching weather is forecasted to decrease in temperature throughout the week, but will remain higher than average for this time of year.
According to Bob Tanner, fire captain and vegetation management coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept., the sudden heat wave is typical of the area’s sporadic weather fluctuations.
“It is a different weather pattern, the Jesusita Fire happened in May, so actually it was earlier in the year,” Tanner said. “A lot of our fires are wind and weather driven.”
Tanner also noted because of the weather and vegetation conditions in the county, there is a constant threat of wildfires throughout the year and focus is now put on specific periods of increased risk.
“The way it is termed now is it is a year-round fire season,” Tanner said. “The local area fire chiefs then decide when to declare high fire season like it is now.”
However, Kristiana Kocis, director of development for the American Red Cross’s Santa Barbara County Chapter, said the heavy rainfall earlier this year has increased the likelihood of brushfires.
“The thing about this year’s unusually high rain is that we have a lot [more] additional brush and foliage growth than in years past,” Kocis said. “That means there is more fuel for fires to burn through.”
Organizations are using this week’s heat as an opportunity to educate the public on wildfire safety procedures. Kocis said Red Cross is urging individuals to prepare emergency packets to keep in easily accessible places.
“The major preparation procedure the Red Cross advocates is that people should have their important documents ready ahead of time, something to easily identify yourself and the place you live, in case you have to evacuate immediately,” Kocis said. “Also, have one to two changes of clothes, some food and water; basically enough supplies to last a couple days in case you have to evacuate immediately.”
Tanner said it is also important for people to use whatever means available to fireproof their homes.
“The biggest thing we advocate is taking all the preventative measures you can in your defensible space,” Tanner said. “It is constantly reminding people you want to do this year round because you never know when this type of weather will hit.”