LA County Fire Dept. announces plan to fight California wildfires

Representatives from local, state and federal agencies announce on June 8, 2010 new firefighting strategies in advance of peak fire season.
Representatives from local, state and federal agencies announce on June 8, 2010 new firefighting strategies in advance of peak fire season. Corey Moore/KPCC

Now is the time to start preparing for those wildfires that scorch the Southland every year, fire officials said. As peak fire season approaches, regional fire departments are launching new strategies and using new tools. Officials say people can also play an important role in firefighting by keeping their eyes and ears open.

L.A. County Fire Department officials said the word of the day is “complacency.” That, they said, is what people should not allow to set in — especially if they live near Southern California’s national forests. Those lands are already on a high fire-danger alert, said Angeles National Forest supervisor Jody Noiron.

“Do not become complacent because of the rainfall that we’ve had this winter,” Noiron implored. “Do not become complacent because of the June gloom that we experience here in the mornings. That is drying out very rapidly up there within the national forest.”

Nature poses its problems. So does technology. Last fire season, crews tried to communicate using multiple radio frequencies. This year, fire officials say, they hope to work around the confusion and missed signals that that caused.

“Today, thanks to the SOLAR communication plan, these same departments utilize a preset group of common radio frequencies,” said Chief Doug McKain with CAL FIRE, the state agency that coordinates wildfire response. “This allows for a unified response and more rapid coordination of arriving fire resources and firefighting efforts.”

McKain says the SOLAR plan also handles access and tactical information, and potential threats to structures in threatened zones. L.A. County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said homeowners need to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

“We emphasize the importance to the public to prepare your property, to be ready, to be set and when asked to evacuate, please cooperate and remove yourselves, your loved ones, your pets and your animals so that the firefighters can focus on protecting your property and trying to protect their lives.”

So far this year, 240 fires have scorched 2,200 acres in Riverside County. Emergency officials say state budget cutbacks necessitated a 10 percent reduction in firefighting resources last year. They hope California can allocate more money this year.

The L.A. County Fire Department is also distributing an 11-page pamphlet called "Ready, Set, Go." It shows people how they can retrofit their homes to prepare for wildfires.

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