Tuesday, December 25, 2007

News: CAL FIRE Extra Staffing this Holiday

Christmas Day should be sunny, but Cal Fire wary of high winds

San Diego County residents will be celebrating Christmas under sunny skies today although firefighters will be bracing for potential wind-driven fires.

While recent rains have helped dampen some areas, high winds are expected to keep firefighters on alert for much of the day throughout Southern California.

Wind warnings are expected to be issued in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. In San Diego County, winds are not expected to be as strong, Stan Wasowski, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said yesterday.

Santa Ana winds of up to 50 mph are expected to blow across San Diego County mountains until the afternoon, he said. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-70s along the coast and valley areas, 70 in the desert and low 60s in mountain areas.

Cal Fire, the state's forestry and fire protection agency, plans to have extra firefighters on duty today. Additional helicopters will be available, said Kevin O'Leary, a division chief with Cal Fire.

“We're ready for it,” he said.

Shifting winds and lack of firefighting resources were major factors in the October wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes across the county.

The Navy and Marine Corps each will have two helicopters ready to help out, O'Leary said. The state sent an additional helicopter, which arrived at the Ramona airport yesterday, he said.

Firefighters who were scheduled to be off today were told to report for duty, O'Leary said. Volunteer fire stations in backcountry areas were expected to boost staffing today, he said.

Fire officials said areas that did not get much rainfall recently are the most vulnerable, mainly in South County.

O'Leary said extra engine companies were being added to stations in Campo, Monte Vista and Ramona.

The San Diego Fire Department does not plan to increase staffing today but will be monitoring weather conditions closely, spokesman Maurice Luque said.

“If there is a need we'll do it,” he said.

Recent rains reduced fire danger in the city by moistening areas with heavy brush, he said.

Source: Article

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