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Fire officials look to the hills

Ben Godar

June gloom has given way to hot, dry conditions, which means the

city, particularly the hillsides, will be susceptible to brush fires

for the remainder of the summer.

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About three dozen members of the Community Disaster Volunteers,

acting as arson watchers, were on patrol during Friday’s Fourth of

July festivities at Starlight Bowl.

Most were stationed around the hillside venue, where they were on

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the lookout for illegal fireworks or any small fires that could have

resulted from the city’s fireworks display.

“Even though the fire department goes to great lengths to wet down

the hillside, we occasionally get hot spots,” said Deborah Shane, a

volunteer program consultant.

The volunteer fire watchers will continue to patrol the hillsides

over the next several months, when the threat of fire is greatest.

Despite some spring rain, Burbank Fire Capt. Bob Reinhardt said fire

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danger is likely to grow during the summer months.

Between now and September, the only precipitation Burbank is

likely to see is occasional drizzle from low clouds, National Weather

Service Weather Specialist Stuart Seto said.

The average rainfall for July is .02 inches, and the average for

August is .18 inches, he said.

“For the next month we have an even chance of getting our usual

rainfall; unfortunately our usual rainfall this time of year is about

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none,” Seto said.

In an annual attempt to decrease the potential for a devastating

fire, fire officials notified all hillside residents in April that

they must clear any brush within 100 feet of their homes. That

effort, combined with the monitoring by the volunteers, is part of

the reason the city has not lost a home to a brush fire since 1927,

Reinhardt said.

While Burbank has not suffered a major brush fire in several

years, Reinhardt said that has allowed more fuel to build up.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had any big fires here, but every

year we don’t our grass gets higher and higher,” he said.

As the risk of fire grows during the coming months, Reinhardt is

asking residents who venture into the hillside to be particularly

careful with anything that could ignite the dry brush, particularly

fireworks and cigarettes.

“People need to be aware that in Southern California, brush fires

are probably our biggest threat,” he said.


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