Red Flag Warnings Issued, Brown Declares State of Emergency
By Terry Miller
Los Angeles County Fire Department has secured the early arrival of two CL-415 SuperScoopers fire-fighting aircraft leased from the government of Quebec. The SuperScoopers will arrive for service in Los Angeles County on August 15 to help with the anticipated heavy fire season which is upon us.
According to Cal Fire, there are currently21 wildfires burning in the state.
The National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity.
A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours. A Fire Weather Watch is issued when weather conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these times extreme caution is urged by all residents, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still high.
The type of weather patterns that can cause a watch or warning include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels, the possibility of dry lightning strikes, or any combination of the above.
During heightened fire danger, Cal Fire will place additional firefighters on duty, staff more fire engines, and keep more equipment on 24 hours a day to be able to respond to any new fires. Cal Fire urges Californians to be extremely cautious, especially during periods of high fire danger. It’s important all residents and visitors take steps to prevent wildfires. One less spark could mean one less wildfire.
The addition of the SuperScoopers – fixed-wing aircrafts that can carry up to 1,620 gallons of water and take only 12 seconds to scoop water – is a welcome sight in this drought-ridden state. They can be airborne in as little as five minutes and fly three hours before refueling.
In addition, an Erickson Aircrane Type I Helitanker was also leased for the 2015 fire season. Capable of delivering 2,200 gallons per drop, it will be also placed into service on Aug. 15th.
With wildfires burning across the state – exacerbated by severe drought conditions and extreme weather – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Monday declared a state of emergency in California to help mobilize additional firefighting and disaster response resources.
“California’s severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox,” said Governor Brown. “Our courageous firefighters are on the front lines and we’ll do everything we can to help them.”
In Northern California, the Rocky fire has defied most models and computer simulations, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The blaze, which is 12% contained, has already consumed 50 structures, including 24 homes, and 3,100 firefighters have responded to the scene. Feeding on brush and vegetation parched by four years of drought, the wildfire at one point Saturday devoured 20,000 acres in five hours. Even seasoned fire officials appeared to be bewildered.
When it broke out last Wednesday near the shore of Clear Lake, about 110 miles northwest of Sacramento, the Rocky fire appeared to be no different from the other blazes being battled across the state.
Its explosive spread is seen as an alarming preview of what could happen in a drought-plagued region. In April, an aerial survey by the U.S. Forest Service estimated that about 5 million trees had died in the Sierra and Sequoia National forests, compared with 300,000 that were counted in the same area last year.
Currently, more than 9,000 firefighters are dispatched across the state to battle 21 wildfires.
At least one of the major fires is thought to be arson, prompting officials locally to reiterate the slogan “If you see something, say something.”