Severe Drought Prompts Early Training for Cal Fire Seasonal Firefighters

As the state enters its fourth year of drought and fire concerns are raging ahead of the summer, Cal Fire's academy for seasonal firefighters began outdoor training Tuesday two months ahead of schedule.

The department's hiring, training and staffing for the fire season has been accelerated due to California's severe drought.

"The fuel is already starting to dry out and so we need that response capability right now -- 60 days earlier than we normally would," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Ciardella said.

For seasonal firefighters, the early start makes sense but is still hard to get used to.

"It's really strange," said Grant Bell, a Cal Fire seasonal firefighter. "I've never experienced this early of a fire season in my entire career."

The drought is also impacting the training since it is difficult to practice fire fighting without using water. Drills, for example, are set up so the well water goes back into the ground.

Officials said another advantage from early training is that staffing at Bay Area fire stations will start Monday.

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