J&M KEYSTONE, INC.

California Wildfires

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The recent California wildfires have left San Diego and surrounding areas reeling from the effects of flames and smoke. To date, thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes and many homes and other properties have been destroyed, according to reports. While wildfires are not a new thing, suspicions of arson have led to much speculation on the cause of California wildfires.

A Fiery Tradition

While there may be human factors involved in any given wildfire, the fact is that southern California has always been vulnerable to these blazes between spring and early autumn. This is because the climate in this area is very arid during the summer months particularly as you move east from the coast. This climate, combined with dry winds, means that the conditions are favorable for the development of wildfires.

Because records of wildfires in this area have been kept for a relatively short period of time, little is known about wildfires before the 1880s in southern California. However, it is certain that devastating blazes swept this area from time to time since earliest history.

In 1888 and 1889, the Ortega Hill, Santiago Canyon and Sycamore Fires became the first recorded wildfires in California history. The Santiago Canyon fire was particularly devastating, burning parts of Orange and San Diego Counties and burned 300,000 acres as well as livestock and crops.

In 1917, the Matilija-Wheeler Springs Fire near Ojai became one of the worst wildfires in California history, claiming fives lives and 70 homes. The fire was said to have started from a carelessly maintained campfire.

To the north, the Berkeley Fire of 1923 consumed 640 structures in Berkeley. San Francisco and Oakland firefighters helped battle the blaze, which was said to have begun in the chaparral of a canyon close to the town from unexplained causes.

Wildfires continued to occur at intervals during the 1930s and 1940s, but it was not until 1953 and the Rattlesnake Fire that national attention was drawn to the problem of wildfires started by human agency. The Rattlesnake Fire, which became a textbook case studied by firefighters all over the country, was said to have been started deliberately by a man who was later convicted of two counts of arson. While battling the blaze, 15 firefighters died from sudden shifts of the flames. The deaths of these firefighters led to changes in the way wildfires were handled by volunteer and regular fire departments.

In 1964, the Coyote Canyon Fire burned 67,000 acres and destroyed 106 homes near Santa Barbara. Fires such as the Sycamore Fire in 1977 which destroyed 200 homes, the 1990 Painted Cave Fire which destroyed 500 homes in just a few hours and the 2008 Tea Fire which destroyed 210 homes are all examples of recent wildfires that caused great destruction and loss of property.

Most recently, the Rim Fire of 2013 became the largest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada and the third-largest in recorded California history.

The May 2014 wildfires in San Diego prompted questions about the origins of these blazes. Although several arrests have been made, no definitive proof has yet been given that arson was responsible for the fires. However, those whose home were destroyed or put into danger are looking for answers, and authorities vow to bring any perpetrators to justice who contributed to these dangerous wildfires.

How Do Wildfires Start and Spread?

It takes only a single spark to start a wildfire under the right conditions. Sometimes this spark is caused by a bolt of lightning; however, it can also be caused by a carelessly tossed cigarette butt or by a deliberately tossed match. Whatever the reason, a small blaze quickly becomes larger as the fire finds dried out wood and plenty of oxygen to feed itself.

A large fire can move quickly if pushed by the wind. Not only do the winds during the spring and summer fuel the oxygen level of a wildfire but they can also push the flames toward new sources of fuel. In fact, one of the biggest dangers of wildfires is the fact that the wind can shift suddenly and the fire will instantly change course.

Wildfires also create their own “weather systems” as some have called it. This means that as the fire grows larger, it sucks in large amounts of oxygen. This in turn can lead to a change in air pressure near the fire which can pull the flames onward. The fire becomes self-feeding and very difficult to contain.

J&M Keystone, Inc. in San Diego knows that home and business owners who have had property damaged by wildfire need professional help with cleanup. Contact J&M Keystone, Inc. today for 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service to handle reconstruction, renovation and repair of all fire-damaged property and complete cleaning and restoration for smoke damage.

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