With Santa Ana winds and hot temperatures expected to sweep San Diego County starting this weekend, Cal Fire and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) will increase staffing to combat the potentially dangerous fire conditions.
Cal Fire said Friday that firefighters were on high alert as critical fire weather moves into Southern California over the next few days. A fire weather watch is in effect this weekend through early next week due to low humidity, high temperatures, and gusty winds.
"We’re in this for the long haul. We have to be ready and have things in place if anything should start," said Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser.
SDFD officials also said their agency is increasing the number of on-duty firefighting crews, staff and fire apparatus in the city.
Those additions include:
- Contracting a fixed-wing air tactical platform and supervisor
- Helitanker on the ground at Montgomery Field Airport which is capable of dropping 2,6000 gallons of water, foam or retardant
- Additional five brush engines, five standard engines, and three water tenders
Moderate Santa Ana winds are expected to develop Sunday, according to NBC 7’s First Alert forecast. Temperatures will soar Sunday and Monday, with low-90s at the coast and low-100s in the valleys. The heat is forecasted to linger through Tuesday, potentially even into Wednesday.
Cal Fire officials said brush throughout the county is very dry and will fuel any fires that might spark.
Amid this Fire Weather Watch, Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham said additional resources would be used, including San Diego County Fire Reserve firefighters staffing all front line fire engines. Reserve firefighters will also cover five county water tenders.
Cal Fire personnel will also be assigned to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps if military helicopters are needed to fight a fire. Cal Fire has also opened the Brown Field Reload Base and will bring in two large air tankers.
"We're ready to go when the time comes and we can be anywhere within Southern California within 20 minutes to a fire after we load," said Air Tanker Pilot, First Officer Joshua Kryzsco.
The agency is funding the staffing of a Strike Team of Wildland Fire Engines for the weekend in both San Diego and the North Zone. Cal Fire is also in contact with Baja Mexico’s version of Cal Fire, CONOFOR, are will use an agreement with Mexico if needed.
SDFD also advised residents to be prepared and have an emergency plan ready in case of an evacuation.
"If you haven’t yet talked to your family about an emergency plan, there’s no time like the present," said SDFD Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. "Putting a plan in place and practicing that plan will give you the best chance of staying safe during an emergency."
The precautions come amid the 10th anniversary of San Diego's devastating and deadly Witch Creek Fire, and as firefighters in Northern California continue to battle nine wildfires burning across the state in the deadliest series of fires in California’s history.
The October Fire Siege – which began on Oct. 8 – has spawned 21 wildfires that burned more than 245,000 acres, forcing evacuations and destroying 6,900 structures. Forty-two people died in the costly wildfires.
Cal Fire said San Diego residents should be cautious during this fire danger period and remember the motto: "one less spark means one less wildfire."
For fire evacuation tips visit this website.