City, Cal Fire prepare for heightened fire danger

SAN DIEGO -- With high temperatures, low humidity levels and Santa Ana winds in the forecast for San Diego County this weekend and early next week, state and local fire agencies announced preparations for the "critical fire weather conditions.''

Cal Fire officials said the state agency will call all Cal Fire San Diego personnel back to work -- even those who have been or still are battling the deadly blazes in the north of the state.

Cal Fire San Diego officials will also:

  • Utilize San Diego County Fire Reserve firefighters to increase staffing on all front-line fire engines and to staff five county water tenders.
  • Fund the City of San Diego and the North Zone to each staff a strike team of wildland fire engines.
  • Open the Brown Field Reload Base at the Otay Mesa airport and stage two large air tankers there.

"Though Cal Fire has year-round staffing in Southern California, these conditions have warranted adding additional resources for the duration of the Fire Weather Watch that brings an elevated threat of wildfire,'' Cal Fire San Diego Unit Fire Chief Tony Mecham said.

"Ready, Set, Go!" Wildland Fire Action Guide

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said it was also increasing the number of on-duty fire crews because of the dangerous fire conditions expected over the weekend and through Tuesday. The city will also contract an additional fixed-wing airplane and aerial attack supervisor. It will also have a helicopter tanker based at Montgomery Field capable of dropping 2,600 gallons of water, foam or retardant.

"We are doing all we can to respond quickly and with much more to bear both from the air and ground to quickly stop fires before they become large life and property threatening fires," Chief Brian Fennessy said.

Wildland fire engine

The city will also staff an additional five brush rigs, five standard engines and three water tenders through Tuesday, officials said.

Cal Fire officials warned that the chance of wildfires created by the hot, dry weather and Santa Ana winds will be exacerbated by fuels that are "very dry and will support significant fire activity should an ignition occur.''

Cal Fire officials have also made contact with state firefighting officials in Baja California "and are prepared to use our agreement with Mexico if needed.'' And Cal Fire personnel have been assigned to the Navy and Marine Corps "in the event military helicopters are needed'' as part of a Defense Support to Civilian Authorities immediate response agreement.

Fire officials asked San Diego County residents to "be extra cautious during the heightened fire danger period in order to prevent wildfires,'' reminding the public that "one less spark means one less wildfire.''

The state firefighting agency is particularly concerned about the upcoming fire weather, given the wildfire emergency in Northern California, where 42 people have been killed.