San Diego firefighters on high alert after red flag warning issued

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RAMONA, Calif – San Diego fire fighters are on high alert after The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for extreme dry heat and strong winds for the next several days.  CALfire is staging all their extra resources at the Ramona Air Attack Base just in case a fire breaks out. They are not only expecting Santa Ana wind conditions, they are also expecting large crowds to the area due to the start of Halloween festivities. At the Mountain Valley Ranch Pumpkin Patch they’re expecting record crowds, like 5-year old Autumn Lee Smith, who is picking out her pumpkin, “I got a tiny weeny one and one big one!” said the excited youngster from Ramona.

The ranch is tucked at the base of the mountains, right in the heart of wild fire country. Marcus Battaglia’s parents own the ranch and he works there. He says they are used to the extreme weather and fires.

“The last fire came right through here,” he said, adding that his family

is familiar with the dangers of a red flag warning.  They almost lost their ranch to the fires of 2007. Describing how they fought the blaze, he said, “it was up to the hills and we evacuated everybody and hosed down the barn.”

With inland temperatures expected in the 90’s and 45 mile an hour wind gust, CALfire is taking no chances. They’ve doubled up their aircraft resources and set up portable re-loading water tankers throughout the county.

“The Us Forest Service brought in an additional helicopter from Lake Tahoe,” said battalion Chief Burke Kremensky, adding, “now we have approximately 6 helicopters and 4 air tankers along with augmented ground resources.”

And they are working with the sheriff’s department and city fire counsels and to create evacuation plans in anticipation of a major fire event. According to Kremensky, almost every city has a designated evacuation route, “we discussed where the fire is headed, how fast it’s moving and how that will impact the homes or community out in front of the fire.”

But for folks like the Hatchers, who have lived in rural San Diego all their lives the threat of a wild fire isn’t going to impact their family tradition.

“I’m a little bit worried,” said Patrick Hatcher, but he says they are used to it, “ we’ve lived here long enough that it doesn’t faze us anymore. We go about our business.”

San Diego Fire and Rescue will have more overtime staff on duty and send an extra truck to any vegetation fire calls they answer.