The researchers discovered that one extra firefighter per engine, could increase effectiveness of the state's firefighters by more than 50 percent, plus reduce the cost of fighting large wildfires.
"Fifteen to 40 minutes may not seem like a lot, but in the initial attack that is a lot of time and often means success or failure in a wildfire event," he said.
Rahn and his staff also did an economic analysis of the 2003 wildfire and found that the actual economic burden to the County of San Diego was $2.5 billion.
"Being able to reduce the fire size by even one percent would have saved $25 million," Rahn said. He added increasing the staff, thereby reducing the fire size by 10 percent, would have saved $250 million.
Researchers and local fire agencies conducted test trials at the Santa Margarita Ecological Preserve, where they ran tests on something firefighters call extended and progressive hose lays.
A hose lay is how firefighters extend their hose to the fire.
Rahn says the next step is to figure out how California can pay to increase staffing levels across the state.