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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Wildland fire Preparedness – Week 2: Fire Prevention Measures and Reinforcing Notification Procedures

By Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | April 21, 2020


Camp Pendleton firefighters extinguish approximately 101 wildland fires on base annually. More than 6,743 acres of land burned last year in 2019 according to Robert Johnson, Deputy Chief for Fire Prevention at Camp Pendleton’s Security & Emergency Services Station.

Fire prevention measures

Some of the many ways base residents can mitigate the risk of wildland fires from starting or spreading, from properly handling equipment to establishing fire hazard zones.

“Billions of dollars of property loss occur each year because of fire damage, injuries happen and lives are lost during these fires,” said Johnson. “As the old adage goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Lawn mowers, weed-eaters, chain saws, grinders, welders, tractors, and trimmers can all spark a wildland fire when improperly handled. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection website at http://www.fire.ca.gov/ these are a few things residents should keep in mind when operating these types of machines:

• Mow before 10 a.m., but never when it’s windy or excessively dry. Lawn mowers are designed to mow lawns, not weeds or dry grass. Metal blades striking rocks can create sparks and start fires. Use caution.

• In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable gasoline-powered equipment. This includes tractors, harvesters, chainsaws, weed-eaters and mowers. Keep the exhaust system, spark arresters and mower in proper working order and free of carbon buildup. Use the recommended grade of fuel and don’t top it off.

• Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires. Keep a cell phone nearby and call 911 immediately in case of fire.

• To protect water quality, do not clear vegetation near waterways to bare soil. Vegetation removal can cause soil erosion especially on steep slopes.

• Make sure to dispose of all burnt materials such as firewood and cigarettes properly and safely, ensure that they are completely unlit, doused with water if necessary and disposed in appropriate containers.

Creating a defensible space

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, creating defensible space is important to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildland fire. This space is a buffer you can create between buildings on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland areas that surround it. It can slow or stop the spread of wildland fire and can provide protection for firefighters as they fight them.

“Southern California is a very dry area with very little rainfall so it’s important for us to maintain safe fire practices on base to mitigate risk,” said Annie Flores, emergency dispatch supervisor with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department. “Dead brush near a building and maintaining those defensible spaces is extremely important for protecting private property.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection offered these tips for creating a defensible space:

• Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds (vegetation).

• Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.

• Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.

• Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.

• Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows. Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks.

• Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.

Notification procedures

According to Johnson, the emergency notification systems available on base provide additional details on procedures in the event of a fire. The Camp Pendleton Fire Department and off-base fire departments may come together to combat the fire based on its scale and intensity.

“A fire in the impact area may only require Camp Pendleton Fire Department Resources, but a larger scale fire may require out of state resources to participate,” said Flores.

The Camp Pendleton Fire Department advises residents to pay attention to the notification system, commonly known as the “Giant Voice”, as well as the text and e-mail based Emergency Notification System, to remain up to date on the conditions of the fire and the evacuation plan from the Emergency Operations Center. Mass warning systems differ based on location. It could be the "Giant Voice" outside speaker, sirens, a telephone alert, or some other system.

The Emergency Notification System provides updates on your mobile phone and/or e-mail at: http://entry.inspironlogistics.com/camp_pendleton/wens.cfm.

To learn out more about how to prevent wildland fires and decrease their risk of spreading, please visit the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection at http://www.fire.ca.gov/