In light of the recent heat waves that hit Los Angeles and the fire that ripped through some 95 acres of the Sepulveda Pass in September, firefighters and community leaders warned residents of the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains on Monday that the most dangerous part of the fire season may be coming.
By mid October, the dry Santa Ana winds can blow through coastal Southern California, creating the potential for devastating wildfires.
"On red flag deployments, which is when the wind is at a heightened level, the temperature is at a heightened level, and the [low] relative humidity—in other words the moisture in the air—is at a heightened level, we'll have a 24-hour patrol with law enforcement rangers driving throughout some of these overlook areas," said David Updike, fire management officer for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The MRCA, which overseas parts of the Santa Monica Mountains east of the 405 Freeway, is placing 100 signs this week along the length of Mulholland Drive and at MRCA parks.
MRCA spokesperson Dash Stolarz said the signs cost about $5,400 and were being installed as part of regular maintenance at no additional cost to the agency.
"Residents will hopefully see these signs and ... if they see something suspicious, they'll remember the sign, they'll remember the number ... and they'll call us," Updike said.
Postcards will also be mailed to local residents asking for help in identifying suspicious activities or careless behavior that can lead to fire.
The announcement was made at a press conference Monday morning at the Nancy Hoover Pohl Overlook at Fryman Canyon, 8401 Mulholland Drive, with MRCA firefighters, representatives of hillside and canyon homeowners associations and Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge in attendance.
Brush fires are either caused by nature or by human activity, said MRCA Chief Park Ranger Fernando Gomez.
"And we don't get a lot of lightning storms out here," he said.
Smoking is probably the biggest threat to the more than 69,000 acres of public land that make up the MRCA's purview, Gomez said.
"We get people from all over the world," Gomez said. "We get people who, that is their habit, and they get off the tour buses, the first thing they want to do is light up a cigarette."
Gomez said that fire education is paramount in the battle against cigarette-lit fires.
"For us that live here and work here, it's a really big concern," he said.
The 70-person agency is on the cusp of losing a large portion of its budget, with 20-year-old Proposition A set to expire this year. The Los Angeles County proposition gave the MRCA some $1.6 million per year.
To bolster its budget, the agency is looking to local residents to pass measures MM and HH in November. The ballot measures would impose a parcel tax of $24 per year on homeowners living in or near the Santa Monica Mountains for the next 10 years.
The MRCA overseas public parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills from Griffith Park west to the 405 Freeway and parts of Encino, Tarzana and Woodland Hills.
The MRCA asks that you call 310-456-7049 if you see any activity that could potentially cause a fire.