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As a fall storm is pounding communities across Southern California, threatening some burn areas in the region, officials offered simple tips on how to properly fill sandbags.

Sandbags are used to prevent local flooding and debris flow, especially in recent burn scars.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department offered the following tips:

  • Fill up sandbags early.
  • Four to five scoops per bag should be enough to get it filled.
  • Don’t tie the top, fold it over.
  • Don’t stack the bags right away, instead, complete each layer before starting the next. Limit the placement to two layers unless a building is used as a backing or the sandbags are stacked in a pyramid form.

Additionally, Los Angeles firefighter and paramedic Trevor Winton said that most people will overfill a sand bag. He said not to bother tying the top, instead fold it over.

How to properly place filled sandbags. (Courtesy L.A. County Public Works Department)
How to properly place filled sandbags. (Courtesy L.A. County Department of Public Works)

“That’ll get the job done for you,” he said.

“Sandbags, when properly filled and placed, will direct storm and debris flows away from buildings and other valuable objects on your property” according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works’ guide for flood debris and erosion control.

Officials say it’s important to place the bags with the folded top toward the upstream or uphill direction to prevent them from opening when water runs by them.

They note that sandbags are useful for low-flow protection of up to 2 feet, but protection from higher flows requires a more permanent type of structure. Similarly, sandbags can be used to deflect flows, but not to form dams.

Officials caution not to use straw or bales of hay instead of sandbags because they do not perform well and may be washed away.

Visit the Los Angeles County Public Works Department website to find out where you can obtain free sandbags. Click here for a list of Los Angeles city fire stations that offer free bags.