Budget woes and hotter days mean bigger battle against wildfires

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Southland fire chiefs say statewide budget cuts combined with warmer temperatures during the next several months will make fighting wildfires much more challenging this season.

Top officials from Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties all gathered Monday in Diamond Bar for a news conference on the (possible) future fires. They emphasized financially-strapped agencies will need to rely on each other for help as the days get hotter and drier.

Lots of rain last summer and winter has caused brush to grow thicker than in past years, say the officials — not a good thing for firefighters trying to stop a fire's spread.

Also not helpful are gusty winds and low humidity. Both conditions have been rampant this month across the Southland.

L.A. county fire department Captain Mark Savage says crews study weather and fire patterns to gauge whether to bring in extra support during the season.

"That could be extra water tenders, extra firefighters on some engines," said Savage. "In red flag weather we might hire a significant number, [which would include] an additional helicopter, additional hand crews to meet the potential for fire behavior for the next day."

Fire chiefs are urging homeowners (particularly those in vulnerable areas) to follow the “Ready! Set! Go!” wildfire action plan. The publication gives tips on planning for a potential wildfire disaster and is available for download on the L.A. County Fire Department website.

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