23,000 acres were lost to wildfire in the Verdugo Mountains near Burbank, California. The fire started Wednesday and spread quickly. Winds whipped up flames as they swallowed up brush and trees. The landscape was pretty dry as it normally is at the end of Summer. Hundreds of homes were in danger. However, only two homes were lost and there were only six minor injuries–thanks to the brilliant work of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
There were fears that the another disaster coming on the heels of hurricanes Katrina and Rita might be too much for the nation to handle. We’d seen fragmented and chaotic approaches to those disasters. Would the wildfires get out of control too?
The Fire Department is credited with saving many homes that surely would have been lost. In 2003, wildfires in San Diego got out of control and took hundreds of homes. The fire department spent time learning from that experience. They carefully planned stategies on where to fight the fire and where the fire might flare up. This includes gauging humidity, burn patterns, wind speed, among other factors. There was coordination between nearby counties so they were all working towards the same goal. Evacuations went off without a hitch.
There was also some preplanning. Residents had been encouraged to clear brush near their homes. The residents did their job which created a fire break.
By Saturday, the fire was under control. Many residents were allowed to return to their homes.
[Photograph of Verdugo Mountains cred: US Environmental Protection Agency, http://yosemite.epa.gov]