Firefighters Fear Dry County When Santa Ana Winds Arrive

Mesa Fire could have been a different story if winds were an issue

NBC Universal, Inc.

Rain is usually a great deterrent for fire. It isn’t exactly great when it rains less than a tenth-of-an-inch after weeks of nothing but hot, sunny days.

“Obviously, it was a relief from the heat wave we just saw,” said Cal Fire Captain Frank Lococo.

However, the sprinkle in San Diego County Wednesday morning did nothing to deter the Mesa Fire from burning more than 350 acres in Pala Mesa just a few hours later.

“That little bit of moisture doesn’t do much to our fuel moistures,” said Capt. Lococo.

“That tells you just how dry the fuels are out there. All that dry brush, you gotta be extra careful,” said NBC 7 meteorologist Brian James during Thursday morning’s newscast. “It’s a tinderbox out there. Just one little spark can cause such a huge problem.”

Lococo said the light Wednesday rain may have an impact on low-lying grasses, but San Diego County needs consistent heavy rains to revive the larger, heavier brush and trees.

Firefighters knocked down several brushfires in the last few days, including ones in Chula Vista, Del Mar, and Pala Mesa. Lococo said it could get harder later this summer if a wildfire takes hold anywhere in the state and local resources are sent to help.

“Towards the middle, towards the end of fire season sometimes we get stretched a little thin,” he said.

One of the best things going for firefighters right now: No Santa Ana winds.

“Wind tends to be the great equalizer,” sighed Lococo. “They definitely are a major contributing factor to large scale fires and catastrophic fires.”

The Mesa Fire likely would have pushed well beyond 350 acres if Cal Fire and the other agencies had to deal with the strong winds fanning the flames.

Capt. Lococo said Cal Fire is still investigating what started the Mesa Fire. He expected crews to be out there putting out hot spots for the next two to three days.

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