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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

'Devil Winds' Bring Fire To Los Angeles

Just in time for Halloween, "devil winds" bring fear of fire to L.A.

Strong gusts of wind are flowing down the mountains and shooting into Los Angeles at high speeds. The Santa Ana winds are back, as are threats of the wildfires they can help spread. The Gibralter fire already burned 50 acres north of Santa Barbara. Another is reported to have burned seven acres near Stevenson Ranch before firefighters extinguished it.

The Gibralter Fire has burned at least 50 acres.
The Gibralter Fire has burned at least 50 acres.

The L.A.F.D. has pre-deployed resources and staffed extra firefighters at stations in high-risk areas, including 11 engines in Tujunga, Mission Hills, Chatsworth, Reseda, Pacific Palisades, Glassell Park, Palms, Echo Park, Lincoln Heights and Central City East, according to spokesman Brian Humphrey.

The high-risk areas are determined by a combination of what kind of terrain makes up a region, the kind of fuel common in the area, and historical record of brushfires, according to firefighter paramedic Greg Kindred of Sun Valley station 77.

Sun Valley is home to one of L.A.’s two “water tenders,” a tank engine that holds 2,500 gallons of water, more than five times the capacity of a normal engine. Two firefighters, a driver and an operator, staff the water tender. Both have to be certified in the operation since it's a very top-heavy piece of equipment. These water tenders are commonly used in brushfire situations when engines do not have access to fire hydrants for extra water, as well as highway fires such as big rig crashes.

Due to the expense of purchasing and operating these water tenders, the LAFD has only two, despite the fact that fire control makes up eight percent of the city’s budget, the third highest expense behind crime control and sewage collection, treatment and disposal.

While the threat of brushfires in L.A. was somewhat low Thursday, The U.S. Forest Service has designated the threat level as “marginal” for October 30th in L.A. and Ventura counties. This means fire could spread rapidly should brush ignite in very dry areas. The Forest Service recommends people living in these areas clean brush away from their homes, a suggestion echoed by Kindred.

Kindred also suggested the community have an emergency bag ready at their house so they can get out quickly and have their stuff ready to go with them in case of fire. He recommends people “park their cars in a manner that’s going to allow them to exit their property quickly,” and back into their driveways with windows up to protect from smoke.

The Santa Ana winds are expected to continue through the fall and reemerge in the spring. The L.A.F.D encourages everyone to be “firewise,” and to report any smoke or fire immediately to 9-1-1.

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