CAMINO, CA - At the base of the tallest free standing fire look out tower in California sits an interagency fire headquarters for both Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service.
Both are ready for the fire season they know is on the way.
"This one is shaping up to be a dangerous season not only for the nation, but here in California," U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Mac Heller said.
"We've had more fires this year already," said Cal Fire's Derek Evans, "than the previous two years at this point in the season."
The Forest Service still staffs fire look out towers, but due partially to budget considerations, Cal Fire relies primarily on video cameras at certain fire lookout locations that they control from their Camino headquarters.
The cameras indicate compass headings so that co-ordinates can be ascertained and fire locations pinpointed.
"I can say, hey, 180 degrees or whatever happens to be the degrees of the smoke report," Evans said. "I can zoom in and out...and that will definitely help with a Code 3 (emergency) response to a fire."
Meanwhile, Evans said, Cal Fire staffing is nearing its peak, crews are all trained and ready to go. Another help fighting fires these days is the proliferation of cell phones.
"Cell phones have really changed things," Evans said. "If a fire breaks out near a well traveled road, fire dispatch can receive as many as 20 to 30 calls a minute."
Both the Forest Service and Cal Fire remind residents to keep at least 30 feet of defensible space around their homes and to be careful with camp fires, heeding fire danger alerts. They also urge safety around the 4th of July.
By Jonathan Mumm, firstname.lastname@example.org