Socal Fires, Santa Anas Have San Diego on Alert

Air tankers sit on the runway in Ramona, loaded and ready to go

Two air tankers used to battle brush fires in San Diego returned Thursday from helping ground crews in Riverside County.

They now sit on the runway, loaded with 1200 gallons of retardant waiting for the next call.

Cal Fire dispatched San Diego units to the Summit Fire that has burned 3,000 acres and destroyed at least one home in Riverside County as well as the Camarillo Fire that by 2 p.m. Thursday had burned 6,500 acres in Ventura County.

Crews were called into action briefly Thursday when a small brush fire broke out near Alpine. Deputies say it was as a result of someone using a weed trimmer.

Cal Fire has beefed up its staffing in response to a red flag warning in effect through Friday. Days off were canceled and personnel are assigned to every fire station to be ready for a call.

Forecasters said high pressure would send strong winds through Southern California's passes and canyons and near coastal foothills.

Winds of 20-30 mph are expected, along with nearly non-existent humidity and an abundance of wildfire fuel.

“We have all of our stations covered with a minimum of three personnel per piece of equipment, fire engine, all of our dozers are covered, all of our hand crews are covered,” said Battalion Chief Daryll Pina from the Cal Fire headquarters in Rancho San Diego.

Cal Fire Captain Jim Gonzalez has the best view in the house.

He's the "eye in the sky" during wild fires in San Diego County and the state.

Cpt. Gonzalez has been a firefighter for 36 years, the last 33 with Cal Fire. But his long career will come to an end this month when he retires.

He spoke to NBC 7 outside of the OV-10 Air Tactical Unit he flies in.

During fires, Gonzalez is typically first on scene and will survey fire scenes and direct other air units.

Gonzalez, along with other air fire crews are right now ready to go on a moment's notice from the Ramona airport.

Among the crews ready for San Diego if needed are 24 Cal Fire engines, four water tenders, 21 U.S. Forest Service engines, two San Diego County Sheriff's Department helicopters, one San Diego Fire Rescue helicopter and six Cal Fire hand crews (13-21 people per crew).

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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