Fire officials warn about dangers of upcoming fire season
On Tuesday, firefighters were traveling across the state to get the word out during "Wildfire Awareness Week".
Bay Area, state and federal fire officials gathered at the Sonoma Calfire air attack base at Santa Rosa airport to issue a dire warning: California is particularly vulnerable this year to wildfire.
Calfire Director, Chief Ken Pimlott said firefighters have been busy, even during the winter months.
"Just in the last four months, we have had over 1,100 hundred fires, said Pimlott. That's almost twice as many as we would have on average for this time of year. Almost twice. That is significant."
This summer could be much worse.
"Four years of drought conditions have left the state incredibly parched," Pimlott said.
Last summer wildfires consumed thousands of acres in Mendocino County... and tens of thousands of acres near Pollock Pines, in El Dorado County.
Rich Burns of the Bureau of Land Management said wildland fires can easily threaten urban areas.
"Within 90 minutes of where we're all standing right now, there live ten million people, said Burns. And you look at that ten million people where we are, and that's bigger than most states."
Calfire says it's ramped up staffing early to get ready and will have 7,000 firefighters on line in June.
Chief Shawna Legarza of the U.S. Forest Service says it will have 5,000 firefighters and additional aircraft to supplement Calfire's fleet and will also change some rules for campers.
"It's a four year drought and knowing that we have to prevent camp fires in the forest that we'll probably have restrictions earlier than normal," said Legarza.
Over the weekend the Sonoma County Sheriff's helicopter trained for firefighting water drops. Calfire says it will also rely on outside agencies, such as CHP and East Bay MUD helicopters for help.
One concern is where choppers will get water... if some ponds and rivers are dry.
"We can order additional ground resources, water tenders and othe vehicles that carry large volumes of water," said Pimlott
While Calfire says it's doing everything it can to get ready for a potentially busy fire season, the agency points out that 9 out of 10 fires in California are started by people, and if people are more careful there's less chance of a disastrous wildfire.