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Officials expect worst fire season yet

Gov. Jerry Brown announces state of emergency in three counties. Fires there have consumed more than 60,000 acres, release says.

August 24, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Capt. Steve Rening, left, and firefighter Jarett Jensen during wildland training in the hills of Laguna Beach.
Capt. Steve Rening, left, and firefighter Jarett Jensen… (Courtesy Dan Stefano,…)

Authorities say this fire season could be one of the worst yet.

The summer has been extraordinarily hot, dry with low humidity and Santa Ana winds, Laguna Beach Fire Department Division Chief Dan Stefano said.

"Those components all together create an alignment that create a significant problem for us," Stefano said.

Since the past couple of years weren't active fire seasons, there are a lot of unburned areas locally, he said, which is a problem throughout the state.

Last weekend Northern California regions reported 900 lightning strikes, sparking more than a dozen fires, CBS San Francisco reported.

As of Wednesday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported 12 active fires and 12 contained fires in the state.

In a statement released Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown stated that Plumas, Shasta and Tehama counties were in a state of emergency. Combined, the fires have consumed more than 60,000 acres, according to the release.

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He noted that firefighter wildland training and interagency training are two important components to have when approaching fire season.

"The collective training is probably the highest it has ever been," Stefano said.

The Laguna fire department has trained alongside Newport Beach and Costa Mesa fire departments, and frequently works with the Orange County Fire Authority, which provides Laguna with its helicopters.

Laguna Beach developed wildland preplanned maps, as a result of the 1993 fires, which are available on engines and a cache — fire tools and equipment — is available at the department for other responding agencies. The maps divide up the city into parts and provide information such as communication plans, best techniques, water sources and command posts, allowing firefighters who come on to the scene to quickly create a game plan.

As for homeowners, Stefano said enhanced water systems and construction requirements have become important to ward against fire. For example, new homes or greatly remodeled homes require sprinklers inside. Non-combustible construction, protected eaves and safe zones around the home are important, he said.

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