Lessons From The Skirball Fire , 14 th Dec 2017

Intense hurricane-force Santa Ana winds and dry conditions combined to whip multiple fires across Southern California this week. The winds continued to frustrate firefighters by rapidly and unpredictably spreading the fires.

Late-week forecasts called for potentially more trouble with wind speeds reaching as high as 90 mph in some parts of San Diego, while other areas were predicted to experience wind speeds between 30-65 mph.

Particularly heartbreaking were the stories of thousands of people ordered to evacuate, most of whom grabbed whatever valuables they could before hurrying away to safety.

In this issue, we’ll share tips for what you can do to fire-wise your property from dangerous winds and what to include in emergency supply kits so that you’ll be in a much better position to “pick-up-and-go” if – and when – this happens again.

Why are Santa Ana winds so dangerous?

The Santa Ana winds are pushed by cold air that’s plunging downward on the Great Basin area. The air rapidly blows through the mountain ranges and makes its way to the metropolitan areas of Southern California.

The winds actually push against the moist air from the Pacific Ocean, and gain momentum from their continued compression and speed.

Even though Santa Ana winds are generally warm, they typically develop when the desert air is cold, and are most common between October and March.

How can I protect my property from fires caused by Santa Ana winds?

The main theme of fire-wising your lawn is to deprive the fire of the fuel it needs. You can do this by:

  • Removing all excess brush and small trees from at least 30 feet around structures
  • Regularly rake and remove leaves, twigs and other organic material from underneath trees and shrubbery
  • Select landscape plants that are less flammable than others – we can help you with that!
  • Prune tree branches that are as high as 20 feet above ground on large trees to that low fires can’t reach the crown of the trees
  • Maintaining a buffer zone on larger lots of low-growing plants about 30 feet from buildings

What should I include in my emergency supply kit?

Many Southern Californians were caught off guard when the calls for evacuation came, and were able to save only what they were able to get their hands on in the ensuing time.

That’s why preparing a basic Emergency Disaster Supply Kit is so important. With a kit already packed, you simply grab the kit and go.

Here are the essentials for a basic Emergency Disaster Supply Kit:

  • Water (plan for at least one gallon per person daily);
  • Food (a 3-day supply of canned or packaged non-perishable items);
  • Flashlights (be sure to include extra batteries);
  • Cell phone with chargers;
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items;
  • Copies of personal documents (insurance policies, medication list, etc.)
  • Family and emergency contact information; and
  • Extra cash.

Stay Connected

To make sure you have as much time as possible when emergency situations arise, make sure you’re signed up for AlertSanDiego, the county’s regional notification system.


Our hearts break for those affected by the latest wildfires, especially at this time of year. If your property has been damaged, remember that the professionals here at J&M Keystone in San Diego are the ones to call to get your house looking and feeling like home again.

We’re available 24/7, so call us at 800-368-2757.


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