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State gears up for fires as rain continues

Posted: March 28, 2014 8:07 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2014 8:07 p.m.
 

It seems a contradiction: As Northern California gears up for more rain next week and Southern California prepares to welcome another storm, CalFire is set to hire extra firefighters beginning Monday.

But Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says the smattering of storms to hit California this month aren’t even a drop in the bucket of the current drought.

“Even with rain in March, our fire activity has remained 200 percent more over average statewide,” Pimlott said in a statement Friday announcing the hiring campaign. “The rain has been great, but it has not been enough to make up for our dry winter and California’s drought.”

Punctuating his point, the CalFire website Friday listed five wildfires burning around California despite the recent damp weather. Two were in Riverside County and one each raged in Monterey, San Diego and Fresno counties for a total of more than 1,000 charred acres. And that’s just in CalFire’s jurisdiction.

The state agency, which generally battles blazes not within municipal or federal jurisdictions, will begin hiring additional seasonal firefighters on Monday. Remote seasonal fire stations will also be opened.

Most of the hiring will be in Central California, the Bay Area and the Sacramento foothills, Pimlott said. But CalFire has already moved to peak staffing levels in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“This week’s rainfall has stayed relatively in the north, but the medium and heavy brush and timber along the Central Coast and southern end of the state remain critically dry,” said Chief Thom Porter, CalFire assistant southern region chief.

“A recent fire in Monterey County charred 400 acres with extreme intensity, despite the humidity being above 80 percent.”

The Santa Clarita Valley’s relative humidity stood at 55 percent Friday evening. But a 40 percent chance of showers was forecast Saturday night and a 90 percent chance of rain forecast Monday, lingering into Tuesday as showers.

 

 

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