CAL Fire officials and others in San Diego are gearing up for the weekend as a red flag warning and high wind advisory go into effect. Artie Ojeda reports.
A fire danger weekend has begun in San Diego as strong, dry winds and warm temperatures have prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a red flag warning.
The red flag warning went into Friday at 11 a.m and is expected to last through Sunday. It spans most of San Diego County, including Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
Moderate to strong Santa Ana wind will fuel the red flag warning, the NWS says. Winds are expected to remain strong through Saturday, diminishing to some degree by Sunday. The most wind-prone areas may experience northeast to east winds at 35 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 60 to 85 mph.
These conditions are ideal for wildfires.
Saturday morning a small brush fire was reported at Rocky Top Lane and Valley Center Road in Pauma Valley just after 5 a.m. Cal Fire crews quickly put of the blaze which burned nearly an acre.
Also on Saturday, in the East county, SDG&E shut off power to 83 homes due to high winds and possible wildfires. Officials with SDG&E said they shut down power to homes in Descanso, Guatay and Boulder Creek at around 6 a.m.
San Diego firefighters have been on high alert since Friday. Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said crews are taking extra precautions.
"We've doubled our aircraft," Schuler said. "Four air tankers, multiple helicopters and fire engines throughout the county, so we're prepared if we have a fire start over the next several days."
Besides the Ramona Air Attack Base, Cal Fire will also use Brown Field as a base to replenish fire retardant if the tankers run out.
"It ensures we're not delaying our aircraft by having to wait here in Ramona to reload," Schuler said. "We'll actually have two places to reload."
Meanwhile, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) officials also have extra preparations in place for this weekend.
For starters, the SDFD says they will increase the number of units sent to initial reports of all vegetation fires to increase the chances of quickly knocking down any blazes.
The department is also calling in extra firefighters and overtime staffers to man additional brush fire rigs on Saturday, when the windiest conditions are expected.
Also, key members of the SDFD’s incident management team have been put on alert to respond to brush fires as needed.
For some the situation brings back memories of previous fire seasons.
Henry Bartolome survived fires that burned in San Diego in 2003 and 2007.
"I remember coming home from work and seeing the fire on Otay Lakes Road and that's when it hits you and you go 'Oh man it's coming close. And we better get the heck out of town.'"
Bartolome says he and his family are prepared.
"We have a plan as usual. The kids are a little bit older; they have their cell phones making sure everyone is aware of what to do [and] how we're going to pick them up."
SDFD officials, including Fire Chief Javier Mainar, say the region is well-prepared for the weekend as well.
The U.S. Forest Service has moved a number of air and ground resources into San Diego County because fire season is nearly over in northern California.
Cal Fire has also added staff to their stations this weekend, as well as extra hand-crews and bulldozers.
In the Southbay, the Chula Vista Fire Dept. will open up it's doors Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a public event featuring fire department demonstrations and fire prevention exhibits. The event will be held at the station located at 850 Paseo Ranchero.
Also on Saturday, the Pala Fire Department located at 34884 Lilac Extension Rd. will hold it's 8th annual Annual Fire Prevention Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food, information booths, children's activities and more are planned for the event along with advice and tips from Pala firefighters.
A red flag warning was also in effect last weekend, when several small brush fires sparked under similar conditions. Luckily, crews were able to quickly get a handle on each blaze before major damage could be caused.