Preparing for Fire Season | Fire Chief Paul Riddle Urges Residents to Take Precautions

His concerns come as the Apple Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains and Morongo Valley have destroyed more than 33,000 acres

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | SPFD Fire Chief Paul Riddle explains strategies for clearing hazardous brush in the Monterey Hills area

As a massive vegetation fire is more than 80% percent contained in the San Bernardino Mountains and Morongo Valley, it’s a reminder for local residents to clear their property of potential danger.

The city’s fire chief, Paul Riddle, wants to use the Apple Fire, which has burned more than 33,000 acres, as a wake up call and warning sign that South Pasadena is vulnerable to a major wildfire.

There are several actions that our residents can take to prepare for fire season,” said Riddle, including:

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  • Maintain properties free from dead and dying hazardous vegetation for at least 100 feet from any structure.
  • Make sure roofs and rain gutters are free from dead debris.
  • Ensure tree limbs are trimmed at least 10 feet from chimneys.
  • In case of evacuation, maintain a “Go Kit” of essential supplies in the home and vehicle in case of evacuation.

Riddle stressed the importance of keeping properties free from hazardous vegetation for at least 100 feet. “In some cases there will be a need to clear vegetation for 200 feet,” he insisted.

Among the 1,719 individuals working the Apple Fire on Tuesday, down 576 from Monday morning, was Daniel Dunn, a captain with the South Pasadena Fire Department, assigned as a fire line paramedic. Since the fire broke out at the end of July, three firefighters have suffered minor injuries, and four homes and eight buildings have been impacted.

Riddle stressed that the South Pasadena Fire Department works closely with residents to ensure compliance when it comes to fire safety. “The annual brush inspections begin in May and continue through the summer months,” he said. “Our residents are very pro-active and receptive to inspection compliance.”

The City of South Pasadena also contracts with the County of Los Angeles to clear the privately owned unimproved lots in town.

Riddle said the city’s Public Works Department facilitates the clearing of brush on unimproved properties.

South Pasadena’s hotspots, considered a high hazard, according to Riddle, occur in the entire southwest portion of the city in the hill area. “This area of our city is our top priority,” he said.

Riddle recognizes the streets in the higher elevations of South Pasadena are narrow, resulting in difficult terrain for fire department trucks to travel. What can residents do to help the SPFD?

“In some cases fire department apparatus have less than a foot on either side from parked vehicles,” noted the fire chief. “Our residents do a great job parking legally, which is the most important thing they can do to ensure fire apparatus can safely respond to all areas of the city. Our residents can also ensure that trees and other vegetation on private property be maintained so they do not overhand and block street access.”

Investigators say debris, spewed from a faulty exhaust system on a diesel-engine vehicle, caused the major fire that has roared through Riverside County’s Cherry Valley for nearly two weeks. Recognizing it can happen anywhere, Riddle is thankful for the prevention efforts of South Pasadena residents.

“I ask them to continue to report any conditions that appear to be unsafe; i.e. overgrown or dry brush, dead trees or vegetation that blocks any street access,” he said. “Finally, call the fire department non-emergency line (626 403-7300) with any questions on ways to keep properties safe and we will send an engine company out to inspect a property and provide recommendations.”