San Diego

San Diego Firefighters Brace for Driest Wildfire Conditions in Decades

Santa Ana winds will play a strong factor in this Fall's fire season, one expert says

Firefighters are gearing up for some of the worst wildfire conditions San Diego has seen in decades, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Chief Brian Fennessy said the fuels are the driest he's seen in his 40 years working in the field in a report delivered Monday to the City Council Committee.

Right off State Route 52 and Santo Road, there are spots around the streets densely packed with dry brush. Experts say the problem has worsened this year because of last winter's record rainfall.

"That gets the grasses growing," said Pat Abbott, a PH.D. Geologist professor who teaches at San Diego State University. "That gets a great under story of small flash fire vegetation."

Over the past few months, lush grassy fields have turned into brown brush and dried up sticks.

The dry conditions have already sparked a number of roadside fires, including a blaze off Interstate 8 and Tavern Road in Alpine and another in a canyon near Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and Santo Road.

With little rain forecast for the upcoming months, Abbott said the dry, fire-friendly conditions are only going to exacerbate.

"Certainly, the potential is there for another Cedar-type fire of 2003 or Witch fire of 2007," said Abbott. "The potential is there. Obviously, we hope it won't be realized, but a large factor is gonna be how strong do the Santa Ana winds blow?"

SDFD officials said they have the staff and equipment necessary to handle blazes as they flare up. However, residents are always encouraged to do their part by clearing defensible space around their homes.

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