At the time of this writing, there are still several fires continuing to burn in California. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, and so far one person has lost their life from the blaze. Though the Skirball and Creek fires that threatened the neighborhood of Bel-Air and city of Glendale respectively have been largely contained or put out, the Thomas Fire continues to ravage Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
In addition to the obvious danger to life and property, the fires have also threatened the production schedules of popular shows, and filmmakers looking to film in the chaparral regions of California have been forced to re-assess their plans.
According to Reuters, CBS’ S.W.A.T. had to cancel productions on December 5 due to the Rye fire that was threatening the city of Santa Clarita where filming takes place. Shooting was delayed for two days and the production was eventually moved from location to a soundstage.
Similarly the cast and crew of HBO’s Westworld were sent home the same day due to unsafe conditions caused by nearby fires. Westworld shoots at Melody Ranch in Newhall, CA, and was also threatened by the Rye fire. According to Deadline Hollywood, production resumed the next day with a Fire Safety Officer on set to monitor conditions.
Other than the obvious danger of wildfires (i.e. The fire), the smoke that the fire produces can also cause extensive damage and airborne health hazards. To avoid jeopardizing the health of your cast and crew it’s important to pay attention to the Air Quality Index for that day. According to AirNow.gov the AQI ranges from 0 - 500 in terms of air pollution and health risks. Anything below 50 is considered “Good” air quality, and between that 100 is considered “Moderate.” Once the AQI is above 100 it becomes unhealthy for those sensitive to air pollution, and with an AQI above 150 the air is generally unhealthy. In the area around the Westworld shoot the air quality was between 100 and 150.
Of course, if you’re on location in a forested area it’s always important to practice basic fire safety tips, especially the “Leave No Trace” principle. On days that are high risks for forest fires you can do things such as not parking production vehicles over dry grasses and doing one’s best to not drive over such grasses. Also, being filmmakers, it’s crucial to police your cigarette butts. If you haven’t taken up vaping yet, make sure your butts are fully extinguished and disposed of.
For more information on wildfire and fire safety you can consult these links:
- Safety around wildfire smoke
- General Fire Safety in National Parks
- Los Angeles County’s Public Safety and Film Unit Field Inspection Program (PDF)
- California State Fire Marshal Motion Picture and Entertainment Unit guide to Filming in California (PDF
- LAFD Fire Safety Checklist (PDF)
If you’d like to donate to recovery efforts, you can get more information by following these links:
- Los Angeles Fire Department Support Page
- Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation
- Thomas Fire Fund via the United Ways of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties
- Humane Society of Ventura County