Due to recent high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity across southwestern California, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning that began on Sunday and will continue until at least Wednesday evening, according to NBC 7’s First Alert Forecast. Such warnings are issued when conditions are considered ideal for fires to combust and spread.
As of this writing, key areas in the warning zone include Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, San Bernardino, Temecula, and most of San Diego County. While Point Loma is not included in the warning zone, some PLNU commuter students who live further east may reside within it.
“During red flag [warnings], fire agencies usually staff more firefighters than usual,” said junior sports and exercise science major Ricky Smith, who is from Fallbrook and currently aspires to be a firefighter. “I have had plenty of fires by my house started by people not being cautious… People burn brush instead of throwing it away, so during red flag [warnings], that is prohibited.”
In areas where red flag warnings are common, the expected procedures are much more routine and surrounding residents tend to be more cautious. “The biggest thing in Ramona is the brush because everyone owns about an acre to an acre and a half of land,” said senior broadcast journalism major Sophie Proctor, who grew up in Ramona and experienced both the 2003 Cedar Fire and the 2007 Witch Creek Fire. “Since it’s such a small town, they have Facebook pages… if anybody sees or smells anything suspicious, they usually post about it and people are on it right away.”
In addition to burning brush, a lot of other actions during a red flag warning are prohibited. “Of course you don’t go out and use power tools, because just little things like that can start fires,” said Proctor. “A lot of people would burn tumbleweeds in their fields, and you’re not allowed to do it. When you do it during a red flag warning, you can get into trouble. The fire department will come by and possibly fine you.”
For individuals who have never resided in such an area, the guidelines might not be as obvious, but living in such an area for one’s whole life means that a red flag warning is nothing more than a bimonthly occurrence.
“It happens up to five times a year,” said Proctor. “We water down the field so nothing sparks up. If even the smallest fire breaks out, they’ll use fire planes to get it out right away. Fires are so common in Ramona. It’s not such a scary situation anymore.”
While it may not be a scary situation for some, others who are travelling within an unfamiliar region nearby may need to be cautious of their actions, particularly during these times. Even the slightest accident could emerge into a disaster.
“Ramona is very, very dry right now,” said Proctor. “Everything is just ground. Everything is just dead. Every field is brown. That’s why being careful is super important. It would be easy for the whole town to burn on fire.”