fire danger

Bay Area Firefighters Prepare for Fire Season

The red flag warnings are prompting Cal Fire stations across the Bay Area to begin staffing up

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It’s only the first week of May, but we are already seeing a red flag warning in parts of the Bay Area, where there is elevated fire danger.

Now, firefighters across the Bay Area are bracing for what could be a busy fire season.

When Christian Dowell moved to Orinda, he made plans with the potential for wildfires in mind.

“We need to go through the trees clean them all out them out,” he said. “Long before we moved here, we take out everything from the ground up. It’s a way just clear out all the dead brush and stuff.”

Dowell’s home is near a portion of the north Orinda shaded fuel break. On Sunday, firefighters were getting reoriented with fire trails and checking trail conditions.

“Right now, our heavy fuels that are really an indicator of how far along in fire season we are as dry as they would be in a normal year the first of July,” said Dennis Rein with the Moraga-Orinda Fire District.

It's only the first week of May, but we are already seeing a red flag warning in parts of the Bay Area, where there is elevated fire danger. Fuels are drying out and starting to cure. Christie Smith reports.

At the Moraga-Orinda Fire District, they stay prepared for the season with an aggressive fuel management program.

“Our fire crews went in burned piles in the middle of winter when they didn’t have a risk of escaping and doing damage. That’s one of the ways were trying to reduce fuels,” Rein added.

Rein said that the department is rolling out a pilot program of new fire adapted community ambassador volunteers to help homeowners spot areas on their property that could be vulnerable. They said that it will help them address it.

“We’re looking at an accelerated fire season our fire danger is still relatively low,” he said. "But if you look at the hills surrounding our district two weeks ago all the grass green that wouldn’t have carried fire. If you look at it today all that grass is brown and will certainly burn quite easily.”

In Orinda, Dowell said the firefighters’ work that’s ongoing is always appreciated. “It’s great to see the firefighters here taking care of the hillside,” he said.

The red flag warnings are also prompting Cal Fire stations across the Bay Area to begin staffing up and to position equipment in case they need to respond quickly.

A small grass fire near Vacaville even broke out Sunday but it was knocked down pretty quickly. Neighbors say the area where the fire happened used to be a government missile bunker.

On Sunday, it was a trouble spot for firefighters.

"When I seen it, that whole hill was already black," said Julia Cooper of Solano County.

Cooper was returning home from a walk nearby when she saw the charred grass and fire fighters mopping it up.

The high winds and recent fires are part of the reason why Cal Fire is getting ready.

"Every unit, throughout Northern California, to be more specific, is staffing up additional engines and dozers,” said Robert Foxworthy, a Cal Fire spokesman.

The winds are just contributing to an already concerning potential for fire danger because so much of the state is also seeing drought conditions.

Foxworthy told NBC Bay Area that people should even hold off on something they often ask homeowners to do.

"So, right now, in the conditions that we have, this isn't the time for the public to get out and start doing those outdoor, brush clearing, vegetation type removal projects,” he said.

Instead, Foxworthy recommends that residents should be getting their go bags ready, just in case a fire breaks out nearby and evacuations are issued.

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