State Offers Resources to Fight Fires

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spent the day surveying wildfires that are ravaging Southern California. He's already declared a State of Emergency in seven counties, and he's hearing from fire chiefs and local officials who say they've maxed out their resources. KPCC's Julie Small reports the state's trying to help.

Julie Small: Cal Fire and the Office of Emergency Services have sent roughly 200 firefighters and dozens of engines and support vehicles to bolster crews in Southern California. Governor Schwarzenegger also called up 1500 troops from the National Guard to help fight the fires.

Cal Fire's Mike Jarvis is at the Canyon Fire in Malibu. He says the state's mobilized all available resources to fight wildfires in Southern California, but that some of that help is still en route.

Mike Jarvis: When I was in Sacramento yesterday, there were bulldozers going down the highway. So it takes time for them to get in, get their number, they get assigned and they go. It's a matter of moving all those resources around, and it's really a tough call for the region operations to do, but they do it. You know, people are asking if we have enough resources. Well, we have the resources we have; we think it's plenty. And if we need more, we'll have to ask for more.

Small: But with the winds changing direction so often, Jarvis says putting a fire engine on every block in the state wouldn't stop all the fires. That's one more reason why people need to evacuate quickly when they get the order.

Jarvis: This isn't a game. This isn't something people can play with. They need to grab their valuables and go!

Small: Some firefighters have reported they lost valuable time because they had to force people to leave after they'd been ordered to evacuate. Jarvis says once the order comes down, people have to clear out – and stay out.

Jarvis: You know, every one of the checkpoints I go to on these fires, you always see people sitting there pleading that they want to get in and do this, that, and the other, and it really eats up a lot of time on these checkpoints, with whether it's CHP or Sheriffs or local police, because they have to tell these people, "We're sorry, but you can't do it."

Small: The governor says he's already talked to President Bush and Senators Boxer and Feinstein about the fires. Federal officials offered their support to California, and the governor has offered whatever state resources are necessary to the local officials.