Editorial: Council must address Ojai risk from fire

As the sun rises red in the morning, while our eyes sting and more than 2.5 million acres burn across the state, devastating small communities such as Shaver Lake, the Ojai Valley News is again requesting the Ojai City Council to heed the 2-year-old advice of the Ventura County Fire Department. 
At the City Council meeting of Sept. 8, the mayor and council brought no meaningful recommendations forward to address the concerns in the 2018 Ventura Fire Department letter. They must address the threat to our community from “large patches of unburned hazardous fuel (vegetation)."
The OVN feels it is critical that we keep a focus on the concerns of the Ventura Fire Department and the Ojai Building Appeals Board to address and mitigate this threat. Please read the 2018 letter from the Ventura County Fire Protection District below and let your City Council members know about your concerns.

March 30, 2018

To: City of Ojai Building Appeals Board
Subject: Wildfire hazard areas for the city of Ojai
Due to the recent Thomas Fire, the wildfire threat has been greatly reduced around the city of Ojai. The fire burned the chaparral with an average age class of 25 years, the vegetation had a high mortality rate due to a persistent 5-year drought. The fire occurred during an unprecedented wind event with hurricane force winds lasting over 10 days, fuel moisture well below the critical threshold and relatively humidity in the single digits. The intense fire conditions led to the formation of pyro cumulus clouds. Fire control efforts become more difficult due to strong, gusty erratic winds that can arise suddenly near a pyro cumulus.
Although vegetation in the Ojai area could take decades to return to the pre-fire conditions, large patches of unburned hazardous fuel (vegetation) remain a threat to the community of Ojai.
San Antonio Creek along Creek Road to the southwest of Ojai, this riparian area is overwhelmed with arundo donax. Typically, fire intensity decreases when burning through a natural riparian area, historically riparian areas have been used as natural fuel breaks. Invasive arundo donax has transformed these riparian areas into areas of high fire hazards with rapid rates of fire spread and high-intensity burning — making fire control efforts difficult.
The northwest of Ojai holds other areas of concern, namely, Stewart Canyon, the Foothill Road area and the Arbolada. These areas have an abundance of native and non-native vegetation intermixed with homes. In a high wind event, these areas are vulnerable due to fuel loading and access/egress issues.
Celine Moomey
Pre-Fire Specialist
Ventura County Fire Department


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