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Fire officials look to dry, busy fire fighting season

Posted: June 18, 2012 6:27 p.m.
Updated: June 18, 2012 6:27 p.m.

With hundreds of acres in the Santa Clarita Valley already scorched by wildfires, fire officials Monday forecast a "drier, busier fire season" for 2012.

Fire Chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department joined other fire chiefs at a news conference in Diamond Bar on Monday to explain the outlook for this year's 2012 fire season, department Capt. Mark Savage said.

"So far this year, we're more active than we have been these last two years," Savage said. "We're going to have our hands full this season."

According to Savage, California has seen "double the number of brush fires" this year and "double the amount of acreage burned."

Locally, fires in Acton and Castaic have collectively blackened more than 800 acres in the last two months.

Joining Osby in his predictions for this year's fire season were representatives from the United States Forest Service, Cal Fire, California Emergency Management Agency, Orange County Fire Authority, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department and other fire agencies from throughout Southern California.

"More fuel is drier," Savage said, referring to the amount of dry brush throughout California, "so we anticipate the potential for a much busier fire season."

The biggest fear expressed by the fire chiefs was in fire whipped up annually by Santa Ana winds in the fall, Savage said.

"The Santa Anas bring us our potentially more challenging times," he said, referring to seasonal winds that sweep through mountains to the ocean.

Part of Monday's conference called for officials to address the impact of budget constraints on fire fighting.
Although money is tight, safety will not be jeopardized, Savage said.

"Based on the need for public safety, the decisions we make will be cost effective," he said. "This means lining up our resource level to match our needs."

Santa Clarita Valley residents - particularly people living in rural areas with lots of brush - are urged to do their part in reducing the risk of wildfires.

Fire officials want those residents to visit the Fire Department's website and read about its "ready, set, go" program regarding brush clearance - then make sure their homes comply.

The Santa Clarita Valley has already seen a couple of destructive wildfires usher in this year's fire season.

Just over a week ago, a brush fire sparked by an off-road motorcycle crash burned close to 700 acres in 24 hours in the hills west of Castaic.

More than 350 firefighters were pressed into action to contain that blaze.

In early May at least two structures were burned to the ground, several homes evacuated, and Metrolink train commuters stranded during a 125-acre wildfire that erupted in Soledad Canyon near Acton.

At least 125 U.S. Forest Service firefighters joined 250 of their county counterparts in bringing the wind-swept fire under control after close to three hours.





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