Dangerous Conditions Could Strengthen Saddleridge Fires

By Tom Jeffery Insurance, Natural Hazard

The heart of the wildfire season has arrived and like both 2017 and 2018, California is in the crosshairs. The October firestorm that devastated California in 2017, followed by the Camp, Carr and Woolsey Fires in 2018 set records for destruction and loss of life. The 2019 fires have not yet grown to match the prior two years, but the ongoing Saddleridge Fire located in the Porter Ranch area in the northern San Fernando Valley has damaged or destroyed more than 100 structures as of Wednesday, October 16, 2019.

fire map

Looking at this region it’s clear that there was the potential for tremendous wildfire damage, but the likelihood that a major wildfire would only affect around 100 structures underscores the enormous effort that was undertaken by responders to reduce the impact of this fire. There is a well-defined line of demarcation between the residential development that has expanded out into the wildland to the north and the Wildland Urban Interface. While thousands of homes exist along the residential edge that border the high risk to the north, successful firefighting efforts are the sole reason that more homes were not lost.

During this time of year, the tendency of Santa Ana winds to occur combined with dry conditions, as during the early stages of the Saddleridge Fire, make for a destructive recipe that only requires an ignition point to spark a potential catastrophe. The fire began on October 10, 2019 and increased in size and intensity over the following few days. A lull in the winds several days later enabled responders to get a better foothold on containment. As of October 15, 2019, the Saddleridge Fire was approximately 46 percent contained. This would normally be a positive, but the Santa Ana winds are expected to strengthen on Thursday, October 17, 2019 and possibly create difficulty in containing the burn.

While the fire does have area to the west and north that has little-to-no residential development, any movement to the south could possibly impact more homes. As of October 16, 2019, there are no new evacuations to report, but the Saddleridge fire remains at the forefront of emergency responders and local officials as conditions could push it toward dense residential development.

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