The recent Santa Ana winds might not have been the last of it and could continue into this month. These winds coupled with low humidity increases the risk of fire danger and has everyone on a red flag alert.
“Generally, October and November are the Santa Ana wind event months for us,” Vista Deputy Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol said. “It’s not uncommon to have these events at this time of year.”
From a weather standpoint, Vander Pol said Santa Anas are created by the high-pressure systems that speed up over the Four Corners area, with a low-pressure system over Southern California.
“In our case, we get the hot, dry winds that come from the desert and make their way to the coast,” he said. “A significant Santa Ana wind event means we end up with temperatures that are warmer at the coast than they are inland. The one we recently had was deemed a moderate Santa Ana. There were some excessive winds north of us, but as far as San Diego County was concerned. it was considered a moderate Santa Ana condition.”
Vander Pol said the National Weather Service generally reports Santa Ana wind conditions about five to seven days before they happen. As the “wind event” gets closer, the accuracy of the data, as well as the reliability of their forecast, improve as each day and hour passes.
When a Santa Ana Wind is expected, Vander Pol said how the
works with all the other fire departments in the county.
“The chiefs usually get together on a conference call and make a decision if there’s going to be any up-staffing of resources,” he said. “That means putting additional fire engines into service and adding additional personnel.”
According to Vander Pol, some agencies in the county did up-staff and add personnel during these last Santa Ana winds; however, the Vista Fire Department did not, but it did do some reorganizing.
Training was scheduled in the center of town during the Santa Ana wind series but was canceled because of the weather report.
“What we chose to do was cancel that training and have those fire engines remain in their stations, closer to the wildland-urban interface,” he said.
When a red flag warning is broadcasted, red flags fly outside fire station buildings while the public is notified of the high fire risk on all social media channels, city e-blasts and other types of updates.
“Red flag notices let people know that we are in fire weather, so things such as mowing the lawn, or having an outdoor fire are strictly forbidden during a red flag condition,” Vander Pol said.
Anything that generates a spark is banned. Another example is pulling a trailer with a chain dragging on a road. “Those sparks can end up in the vegetation and start a vegetation fire,” he said, adding that a level of awareness is vital during red flag warnings. “And if you do see somebody that has an outdoor fire, or a truck pulling a trailer that’s generating sparks, or somebody out mowing their lawn or using a weed-whacker on a red flag warning day, call your local fire department or 911.”