Fire Department Closely Monitors Vegetation in High-Risk Areas of Pasadena After Rainy Season Spurs Growth

Published : Sunday, March 31, 2019 | 6:17 AM

Every year the Pasadena Fire Dept. douses the hillsides surrounding the Rose Bowl with the fire retardant Phos-Check to reduce the chances a blaze will erupt.

For all it’s tree-lined charm, Pasadena doesn’t quite qualify as a forest but, from the State of California’s perspective, it contains “high-hazard” and “very high-hazard” areas the local Fire Department watches warily.

Thickened vegetation growth from an active rainy season impacts Pasadena as well, according to Pasadena Fire Department deputy chief Bryan Frieders.

“We have our hillside homes up in Linda Vista and Hastings Ranch and those are places we consider because they are high-hazard and very high-hazard according to CalFire maps,” he explained.

Pasadena is an urban environment, but its rendezvous with nature is not softened by suburban or exurban sprawl. Some neighborhoods mentioned are located on the edge of the California wilderness.

“The potential for wildfire obviously exists any time you have homes that are built in the wildland-urban interface,” Frieders observed.

The rainy winter, said Fielders, “has increased growth of some of the vegetation that was either burned in the La Tuna fire, or some other regional fires, and also caused some of the existing brush to grow higher, light fuels such as grass.”

The Fire Department’s response is very much about aggressively monitoring of the vegetation growth. The Dept. performs more than 4,000 inspections a year of home landscapes in the most vulnerable areas.

“We ask people to be compliant, to keep woodpiles, furniture, patio umbrellas and other combustibles away from the house so the fire isn’t transmitted to it,” he said. “We have very few houses we have to return to and ask to be compliant. Less than 2 percent.”

The department’s vegetation management program includes a patrol that goes out to monitor brushfire areas. It has an agreement with the Pasadena Police Department to get one of its chief officers airborne for a bird’s eye view of suspected hotspots.

When hazards are apparent or imminent, the department has the capacity to supplement its staff.

Every single firefighter, Frieders added, is trained annually for a minimum of eight hours and chief officers spend between 10 to 20 hours a year going through command-and-control, strategy, and tactics for dealing with fires.

The Fire Department’s website says its personnel welcome questions and invitations to discuss vegetation management and other fire-related issues with organizations or individuals.

It lists (626) 744-4668 and (626) 744-4655 as telephone numbers to call for additional information or to arrange for a meeting with a Fire Department representative.

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