Firefighters prepare for dangerous fire conditions in San Diego County
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department increased staffing levels in anticipation of increased risk of fire activity as the first Santa Ana winds of the season reach San Diego County.
A red flag fire warning for the county’s mountains and valleys went into effect at 8 a.m. Monday and was expected to remain in effect through 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the NWS. Areas that faced particularly dangerous conditions included the Palomar and Descanso ranger districts of the Cleveland National Forest.
Northeast winds of 15 to 30 mile per hour were expected this morning through Tuesday morning, with gusts of 45 to 50 miles per hour, according to the NWS.
At 7:45 a.m., a California Highway Patrol officer requested a wind advisory go into effect on Interstate 8 from Alpine to San Diego County’s eastern barrier with Imperial County. The officer said high-profile vehicles should avoid that stretch of the freeway.
Combined with low humidity levels, the conditions were expected to create critical fire weather conditions for throughout San Diego County, according to the NWS and San Diego Fire-Rescue.
Additionally, fire officials said several years of drought, coupled with heavy rains this past winter, have created significant amounts of dry grass and brush — perfect fuel for a wildfire.
Humidity levels were predicted to fall to between 8 and 12 percent late Monday morning through early this evening. On Tuesday, humidity is forecast to remain between 10 and 15 percent.
High temperatures Monday were forecast to be 80 to 90 degrees in the western valleys and foothills, 68 to 77 in the mountains and 84 to 89 in the deserts.
Five brush engines, with a crew of four personnel each, and two water tenders will be staffed Monday and Tuesday, fire officials said. Staffing for the Metro Zone Emergency Command & Data Center and Air Operations Section will also be increased.
Brush engines are large, off-road-capable vehicles with a water capacity of 600-1,500 gallons. The department*s water tenders carry up to 3,000 gallons of water and provide water supply to engines at vegetation fires.
Officials urged the public to be prepared and to heed authorities’ warnings in case of a fire.
"San Diegans can prepare by creating an emergency plan and practicing that plan," Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said. "Having two safe ways to exit your home and also mapping out and practicing a safe evacuation route in advance can save lives and prevent serious injury."
U.S. Forest Service officials listed the threat of a Santa Ana-driven wildfire as only marginal today across San Diego County, but any wildfire that breaks out "may grow rapidly," according to the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index.
The increased fire staffing in San Diego County comes as Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Monday for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba due to at least 14 wildfires burning across Northern California. California Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said at least 1,500 structures have been destroyed and an estimated 20,000 people have been evacuated.
San Miguel Fire and Rescue sent two brush engines and Heartland Fire and Rescue sent a strike team to Napa Monday to assist crews in fighting the blazes.