Bay Area firefighters prepare for increased fire danger due to weather

Hot temperatures and the possibility of thunderstorms have prompted a fire weather watch for parts of the North and East Bay hills.

And the state's grid operator has issued another flex alert for Thursday.

Fire crews and people who live in the hills above Lafayette are keeping a close eye on the dry vegetation and weather.

"It burned a couple of houses and we had burning debris dropping," homeowner Patsy Rodriguez Ronat says a fire years ago burned uncomfortably close.

The forecast for possible thunderstorms is a concern.  

Defensible space around her home is a must.

"Cut these down till about 3-feet tall," says Rodriguez Ronat points to the vegetation on her property.

The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokesman Steve Hill says on Tuesday, crews responded to 16 fires countywide in 20 hours.

Four homes were destroyed by vegetation fires, including two in Antioch.

"Conditions are ripe for them, especially in these coming weeks, next couple of months," Hill is urging people to remove dry vegetation near their homes, either in the early morning hours or later in the day when the weather is cooler.

He says that will avoid the risk of gas-powered tools causing a fire. "The biggest fires typically occur in the months of October, late September. Here we are now. We're looking at the possibility of lightning strikes."

The National Weather Service says the best chance for thunderstorms will be Thursday afternoon and night, lingering possibly into early Friday morning.

"We're all at the whim of nature and it's always possible things can get out of control," says Lafayette homeowner Rob Reuben.  

A statewide flex alert will be extended to Thursday, calling for voluntary electricity conservation from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"We close up our house early in the morning when the  cool air is still here, very rarely turn the air conditioner on," says Reuben.  

Flex alerts and fire danger are now a way of life.

"We live here in this kind of an area. They're going to happen. They race up the hills and race up the ravines.

You do what you can do," says Rodriguez Ronat.  

Hill is asking people not to hesitate to call 911 if they see a fire.

He says don't assume someone else already called.