Red flag fire warning goes into effect Monday

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is increasing staffing levels in anticipation of increased risk of fire activity, officials said Sunday.

A Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service for most of the county will go into effect 8 a.m. Monday and remain in effect through 10 a.m. Tuesday, as strong and gusty 20 to 30 mile per hour northeast winds were expected Monday morning through Tuesday morning. Combined with low humidity levels, the conditions were expected to create critical fire weather conditions for throughout San Diego County, according to the NWS and San Diego Fire- Rescue.

Additionally, fire officials said several years of drought, coupled with heavy rains this past winter, have created significant amounts of dry grass and brush -- perfect fuel for a wildfire.

Five brush engines, with a crew of four personnel each, and two water tenders will be staffed Monday and Tuesday, fire officials said. Staffing for the Metro Zone Emergency Command & Data Center and Air Operations Section 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.

Officials urged the public to be prepared and to heed authorities' warnings in case of a fire.

"San Diegans can prepare by creating an emergency plan and practicing that plan," Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said. "Having two safe ways to exit your home and also mapping out and practicing a safe evacuation route in advance can save lives and prevent serious injury."

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