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Pasadena Fire Chief: The Peak Fire Season Has Ended But Wildfire Threats Remain

Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | 5:55 am

Pasadena Fire Chief Chad Augustin (left) discusses brush clearance and residential fire safety with homeowner Ann-Marie Villicana (center) and Deputy Fire Chief Anthony James during a press event on April 6, 2022. [Eddie Rivera / Pasadena Now]
In a substantive discussion about the threat of wildfires to Pasadena and the state, Fire Chief Chad Augustin told Pasadena Now that the city is currently at a reduced risk of wildfire but residents should not let their guard down. 

“A reminder that even as it gets cooler and we start to get into some of the rainy season, we’re still in a drought,” the Fire Chief said. “It was nearly 80 degrees on Thanksgiving. And there’s Red Flag conditions all around us. It’s just a good reminder to take good precautions, don’t let your guard down and always be ready to evacuate or take proactive measures in the event of an emergency.”

Augustin’s advice follows a declaration by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that the peak fire season has ended in most areas of the state, and that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection  (CAL FIRE ) is doing early work in preparation for next year’s wildfire season.

CALFIRE also reported the state has seen a significant reduction in acres burned and structures damaged or destroyed this year compared to last year and to the latest five-year average count.

California had 7,095 fires so far this year, damaging or destroying 876 structures and impacting 362,403 acres. 

Last year, the state recorded 7,881 fires which damaged or destroyed over 3,500 structures and over two million acres.

Pasadena has traditionally deployed firefighters and crews to other areas throughout the state to help fight fires, in keeping with the state’s mass mutual aid system. 

This year, Pasadena crews deployed for only 47 days compared to a total of 89 days in 2021, Augustin said. He said there have been several other requests for support that the city has not been able to fill because of staffing concerns.

The Fire Department’s priority is responding to Pasadena area incidents, which he said were also significantly fewer the past year. When not responding to fire calls, the Fire Department goes about their regular tasks of inspecting homes and properties in the city’s high fire hazard areas, Augustin said. 

Every year, the Department does about 4,000 high hazard inspections.

“We walk the premises, the property with them,” he said. “We assist them with making sure that they have adequate clearance, that trees are away from roof lines, that anything that’s flammable is cut down to a very small level, that we have adequate clearance from the street, from branches. And so really what we’re doing is we’re doing our best to mitigate risk before there’s even a fire.”

One thing that Augustin would want to relay to Pasadena residents is that climate change is real, and as the years go by, the average temperature increases and the risk of wildfires also increases. 

He also wants the community to talk about how people have been trying to move out of the urban area and into the more wildfire-prone areas.

“As more people live in remote areas, you’re increasing your risk of wildfires,” he said. “Because people make mistakes or just do their normal burning or living, you can increase the risk of wildfires. And so when you’re in a high risk wildfire area, when we have urban sprawl out of the urban area that’s going to continue to pose a risk in California. And then as we’re in a drought condition, those risks are going to continue to be real.”

Pasadena may be lucky for having fewer fire incidents this year, but Fire Chief Augustin said there is no place for complacency, especially when the drought continues.

“Pasadena is a beautiful community, but as we look around, we’re right in a wildland urban interface area,” he said. “We have multiple areas both on the west and east side of town that are in the very high fire hazard severity zones. And so we have to be prepared for a wildfire or any natural disaster. And it’s really important that we’re proactive in working with the community to reduce those risks.”

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