DIAMOND BAR (CBS) — County fire chiefs from across the Southland warned Monday that a combination of statewide budget cuts and much drier summer than last year could leave the region vulnerable to devastating wildfires.
KNX 1070′s Ron Kilgore reports the warning came on the same day that five counties in Southern California were under “red flag” conditions.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby was joined by representatives from CAL FIRE, California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), Orange County Fire Authority, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department and other fire agencies from throughout Southern California.
“This year, the rainfall’s been below normal, so we have the dead fuel from last year, and we have dead fuel from this year,” said Osby. “This year our projections for the fire season is that we’re going to have a warmer, drier summer.”
That grim assessment combined with overstretched resources have left budget-strapped agencies statewide looking to rely more heavily on each other for mutual aid and to share fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
Last year’s relatively wet summer has caused brush areas to grow higher and thicker than in previous summers, according to Orange County Fire Authority Chief Keith Richter.
“In the eastern part of the county as well as Laguna Canyon area, we’ve got a lot of interface areas where the developments have built up around those wild land areas,” said Richter.
Richter and the other fire chiefs urged residents to use the “Ready! Set! Go!” wildfire action plan (PDF).
A potentially dangerous combination of high temps, low relative humidity and gusty winds is forecast for much of the Southland through early Tuesday, with wind gusts expected to top 45 MPH through the mountains, passes and deserts.