Cal Fire is ready to start focusing on a potentially early fire season.
Applicants are expected to begin lining up outside the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection headquarters in Morgan Hill on Tuesday as the agency begins hiring seasonal firefighters.
About 300 recruits who made the cut from a pool of more than 1,200 will be interviewed on Tuesday. Cal Fire says the recent rain, as well as weather projections, make extra staffing crucial.
The hiring process was moved up to get new firefighters trained and into stations at least a couple of weeks before the "official" fire season.
"It gives us extra hands so that we can make those hose lays and fight fires more aggressively,” said Cal Fire Capt. Ken Myers.
A wildfire that started about 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon in San Jose, near Interstate 680 south of Berryessa, was quickly knocked down, but it could be a sign of things to come.
The seasonal hiring is starting earlier than usual, and thanks to special drought funding from the governor, some stations – such as at Mount Hamilton, which is usually shut down during winter – have stayed open.
"Support staff worked really hard across the department to accomplish getting all of our hiring processes done even earlier so that we can get folks trained and deployed to the stations,” said the Cal Fire South Santa Clara County Fire District division chief in charge of administration, Jim Crawford.
Cal Fire said it expects to hire around 120 or so firefighters statewide, with between 20 and 30 added to Bay Area stations.
Cal Fire officials said the agency generally declares fire season in mid-April, and while it hasn't said that will change, they acknowledge they plan to have new firefighters in place by the start of April.