Cal Fire began hiring hundreds of firefighters statewide Monday, a start date earlier than usual because of the dry winter and a significant increase in wildfires across the state.
In the Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit that also includes Yolo, Solano and Colusa counties, Cal Fire is hiring 29 firefighters, spokeswoman Suzie Blankenship said.
Sonoma, Lake, Napa and Colusa counties will add five firefighters, and the remaining nine will float among the counties and replace firefighters who were promoted to engineers or transferred to another unit, Blankenship said.
Cal Fire is also hiring six forestry aides who will travel in pairs throughout the unit to educate property owners about to creating 100 feet of defensible space around their homes, Blankenship said.
"This is the earliest we have hired seasonal firefighters. We usually hire them in May," Blankenship said.
On Jan. 17, Cal Fire hired five firefighters for the Santa Rosa station. The 29 firefighters hired Monday have at least one season of experience, Blankenship said.
"We'll continue to hire in stages until we get to the peak, which is normally by July 1," Blankenship said.
Cal Fire today it is opening many remote seasonal fire stations several months earlier than normal.
"Even with rain in March, our fire activity has remained 200 percent more over average statewide," said Chief Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director. "The rain has been great, but it has not been enough to make up for our dry winter and California's drought," Pimlott said.
Between Jan. 1 and March 22, Cal Fire responded to more than 200 wildfires that charred 2,300 acres. In an average year during that time frame, Cal Fire responds to 275 wildfires that burn 1,000 acres, Cal Fire said.
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