San Diego Fire-Rescue Department increasing staffing in anticipation of heightened fire activity
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is increasing staffing levels in anticipation of increased risk of fire activity, officials said Sunday.
A Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service for most of the county will go into effect 8 a.m. Monday and remain in effect through 10 a.m. Tuesday, as strong and gusty 20 to 30 mile per hour northeast winds were expected Monday morning through Tuesday morning. 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.
"Several years of drought coupled with heavy rains this past winter created significant fuel in the form of underbrush and grass,” department spokeswoman Monica Munoz said. "This fuel, combined with hot temperatures and low humidity, create conditions which are conducive to easily ignited and fast burning wildfires.”
The danger is particularly acute in October, when California has experienced many of its deadliest and most dangerous fires, according to officials.
"SDFRD recommends vigilance on the part of the community all year round, but the risk has proven to be higher during October,” Munoz said.
Fire Chief Brian Fennessy urged San Diego residents to prepare for the danger by creating and practicing an emergency plan.
"Having two safe ways to exit your home and also mapping out and practicing a safe evacuation route in advance can save lives and serious injury,” Fennessy said.
The department will closely monitor weather conditions throughout the weekend and may extend the increased staffing depending on weather changes, officials said.
Brush engines, like the five extra the department will have on standby this weekend, 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.
San Diego has hundreds of miles of wildland-urban interface, officials noted, making the risk of fire to homes and businesses especially severe. Strong winds can also increase fire danger, with breezy conditions possible this weekend.
Santa Ana winds — the most dangerous for spreading late-season wildfires — are expected to affect the Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange County areas this weekend, but not San Diego County.
The department said some fire-related deaths occur because people wait too long to leave their homes. Officials urged residents not to wait to be told by authorities to evacuate if a severe fire is nearby, and not to hesitate if they are told to leave.