Help California wildfire victims

High winds prompt increased SDFD staffing

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials are increasing staffing levels in anticipation of increased fire activity.

Over the next week, the coastal foothills of San Diego County are expected to see east-to-northeast winds of 15-20 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 30 mph, according to the Southern California Geographic Coordination Center.

The winds will leave the San Diego area at an elevated risk for large fires Monday through Wednesday, fire department officials said.

"Fire season is a year-round reality in our region, requiring firefighters and residents to be on heightened alert for the threat of wildland fire," Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said. "As history has demonstrated time and again, there is no greater threat to life and property in the city and region than wildland fire."

Five brush engines, with a crew of four personnel each, and two water tenders will be staffed between Monday and Thursday, fire officials said. In addition, the Metro Zone Emergency Command & Data Center and Air Operations Section staffing will also be increased.

Brush engines are large, off-road-capable vehicles with a water capacity of 600-1,500 gallons. The department's water tenders carry up to 3,000 gallons of water and provide water supply to engines at vegetation fires.

The department will closely monitor weather conditions and may extend the increased staffing depending on weather changes, officials said.

San Diego has hundreds of miles of wildland-urban interface, officials noted, making the risk of fire to homes and businesses especially severe.

The department said some fire-related deaths occur because people wait too long to leave their homes. Officials urged residents not to wait to be told by authorities to evacuate if a severe fire is nearby, and not to hesitate if they are told to leave.