Brush clearing saves many homes in fires

Defensible space gives fire crews a fighting chance to protect properties

John Palminteri, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Senior Reporter, johnp1250@aol.com
POSTED: 04:50 PM PDT May 06, 2013    UPDATED: 08:07 PM PDT May 06, 2013 
Fire - Defensible Space
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

The recent "Springs" Fire in Camarillo had many tense moments when homeowners were about to lose their properties. Those who cleared back the brush near their structures however, have a home to return to today.

Fire crews say the weed abatement and brush clearing has proven to be one of the most effective ways to hold off approaching flames.

They also say it gives them a place to make a stand.

"There is a very quick down and dirty triage we do to allow us say if a property is a defensible structure," said Santa Barbara City Fire Captain Gary Pitney. 

Where there is clearing, "firefighters aren't concerned about getting in and more importantly getting out," said Pitney.

Some areas, like the Santa Barbara Riviera and Mission Canyon have cleanup days, where property owners bring cuttings to the street and a chipper turns them into ground cover.

Some residents pay a special assessment fee for roadside brush clearing and the haul out of large piles of cleared brush from homes in the thick hillsides.

Piney says the Southern California region is known for fast moving fires, and Sundowner wind conditions that can easily destroy homes, especially those surrounded by brush and trees.

Where there's been clearing, of up to 100 feet, many fires die out before they can damage a structure.