Recent Rainfall Can Lead to More Fires Ahead, Wildfire Town Hall Set

Published : Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 5:45 AM

Flashback: With JPL in the foreground, the massive Station Fire wildfire burns uncontrolled in the San Gabriel Mountains near Jet Propulsion Laboratory at 9:26 p.m. on August 28, 2009. Photo by mbtrama via Flickr.

The legislators and the experts will coalesce Thursday with wildfire on their minds, as new research from Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been released that suggests smaller fires are more likely after a heavy rainy season than are the catastrophic variety.

Legislators representing communities at risk of wildfires along the San Gabriel Foothills will host a Wildfire Town Hall in Pasadena from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm in the Pasadena High School Auditorium.

In a just-published article in the journal, “Environmental Research Letters” JPL/Caltech said the research revealed that large fires “behave more logically,” by being less likely to occur following a rainy winter.


For more about tonight’s event, click here


Dry fuel catches fire and burns faster than damp fuel. Researchers set out to study the link between fuel moisture and the likelihood of fire. Using remote sensors, their efforts demonstrated that soil moisture correlates well with fuel moisture.

After nine years, between 2003 and 2012, of gathering soil samples from across the country, the research revealed, in every landscape, that the number of small fires increased after a wet season.

Basically, a more moist soil causes smaller grasses and plants to grow profusely. These dry out in summer, spotting the forest floor with potential firespots. Larger trees absorb and hold the moisture, making catastrophic fires less likely.

So, knowing the moisture of a fuel supply can improve predictions of how fast a wildfire may spread.

Although it has been a while since Pasadena has felt the heat, local legislators are looking ahead to the next great wildfire in Pasadena’s environs with the Thursday night town hall.

“We live in an area that is beautiful yet prone to wildfires, which poses a risk to our property and well-being,” said Assemblyman Chris Holden (D) in a prepared statement. “The good news is that we can take steps at the individual and state level to help prevent wildfires that will save lives and our communities.”

Impetus for the event comes from Assemblymember Chris Holden, the chair of the Assembly utilities and energy committee. Joining him will be Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D), Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D), Assemblyman Ed Chau (D), and State Senator Anthony Portantino (D).

Garo Manjikian, a spokesman for Holden said the event is informational in scope. “We’re making sure homeowners do everything they can to protect their homes in a wildfire,” he said, “and to educate the public on what the state is doing.”

Joining the lawmakers will be a panel of experts to discuss home from protection from wildfires, new prevention measures from utilities, and what the state is doing to prepare for catastrophic blazes.

The panel will include: Daryl Osby, chief, Los Angeles County Fire Department; Jeffrey Toney, southern region administrator, California Office of Emergency Services; and Elizaveta Malashenko, deputy executive director for safety and enforcement, California Public Utilities Commission, and a yet-to-be-named representative from Southern California Edison.

The City of Pasadena continues to implement on the preparedness front.

Anyone can sign up for its Community Emergency Response Training, which is a 21-hour affair certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to City of Pasadena spokeswoman, Lisa Derderian. It is offered twice annually by the Pasadena Fire Department.

Councilmembers also conduct CERT overview courses. Similarly, Map Your Neighborhood trains volunteers as part of a neighbor-helping-neighbor house-to-house rummage that identifies needs and resources alike.

Derderian said homeowners’ groups also offer one-hour preparedness programs. “Disasters aren’t ‘tangible,’ until they occur so people don’t think about preparedness,” said Derderian. “It’s not ‘if,’ but ‘when’ our next disaster will strike.”

The event is open to the public and will be live streamed at www.facebook.com/assemblymemberchrisholden. More information can be found at https://a41.asmdc.org/event

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