Firefighters stress prevention as threat of wildfires increases

5:35 PM, Aug 19, 2013   |    comments
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PLACER COUNTY, CA - An already difficult fire season is about to get even more challenging. As if firefighters didn't have enough on their hands battling 10 major wildfires throughout California, dry lightning and gusty winds threaten to start and spread even more.

The 13,000-acre American Fire in the Tahoe National Forest is a federal fire, but they are getting help from all over the state, including 500 firefighters from Cal Fire. The blaze began Saturday, Aug. 10 and within a few days, heavy smoke covered the Sierra foothills, the Tahoe Basin, and the Sacramento Valley.

Add in several other fires, such as the Swedes and Rim fires, and resources are being stretched.

"This weekend we're starting to bring additional resources on, bringing in off-duty firefighters, staffing our reserve engines, making sure we have plenty of resources to respond to what could be a busy couple days for us," Cal Fire's Daniel Berlant said.

Weather over the next couple of days could intensify what has already been a very active fire season.

"But this is going to heighten it even more because now not only are the conditions right for a fire, now we have the ignition source, which is that dry lightning," Berlant continued.

Local fire agencies know they may be called in to assist. Citizens can do their part, too, with preventative measures.

"A tire that's not inflated properly, the hubcap could spark on the asphalt and start a fire. Chains connecting a trailer can easily spark a fire, so little things you may not think of, these are the days right now where we need everybody to take that extra step," Berlant said.

There is a Red Flag warning in effect for the threat of dry lightning through Wednesday. But even once we get past that window, the danger remains. Firefighters call lightning sparks "sleeper fires" because after the lightning strikes, the spark can grow little by little for several days before it produces enough smoke for reconnaissance aircraft or spotters to detect.

Fire officials are comparing these next few days to a similar period in 2008 when they saw 2,000 lightning strike fires in a one-week period that burned hundreds of thousands of acres.


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