The best way to avoid trouble during the fire season, say fire officials, is the obvious one: Take measures to prevent it.
And the best way to do that, they add, is to respect the law.
Both Los Angeles city and county regulations require that residents living in the most fire-prone areas--the hills and their buffer zones--clear brush within 100 feet of their homes.
Succulent plants, which are fire-resistant, and non-oily trees such as sycamore and oak are acceptable. However, said Capt. Gordon Pearson, county fire community relations officer, among trees that invite trouble are eucalyptus and pine.
Wetting down the land around a residence in dry weather is helpful too, Pearson said, because "the more moisture in the area the better off you'll be."
Both Pearson and Inspector Ed Reed, city Fire Department community relations officer, said that the vast majority of brush fires like the one that ravaged Baldwin Hills on Tuesday are of suspicious origin.
This factor, they said, suggests another prevention measure: Immediately report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood to fire or law enforcement officials. Or report it to a statewide watchdog network by telephoning 1-800-47-ARSON.
Wood Roofs Can Burn
Reed said that when they can afford it, people with wood roofing should replace it with fire-resistant material, such as treated composition or rock sheeting.
Since 1982, the City of Los Angeles has banned the installation of new wood roofing. Each city and non-urban area in the county makes its own regulations, but Pearson said his department discourages wood roofs.
Both Reed and Pearson are emphatic on what to do if a fire does indeed break out: Call your Fire Department immediately.
Said Pearson: "If a person smells smoke, he should call and report its source if he can. Then he should prepare his home by closing the doors and windows. The rest is up to us." Leaving doors and windows open in the face of external fire, firemen long ago discovered, actually draws flames into a residence.
"Watering down the roof is fine and dandy if the fire is a ways away," Pearson said. "But if it's coming on top of you like was the case with Baldwin Hills, get out of there."