Fire chiefs unite efforts in battle against wildland blazes

Already the heat is on

John Palminteri, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Senior Reporter, johnp1250@aol.com
POSTED: 07:15 PM PDT May 08, 2013    UPDATED: 02:51 PM PDT May 09, 2013 
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GOLETA VALLEY, Calif. -

Fire chiefs have come together to unite their efforts in a fire season that's already well underway.

"I can tell you, Cal Fire is at peak staffing.  Having us at peak staffing this time of year maybe, has never occurred before at this level," said Cal Fire Chief Robert Lewin. "All our engines, hand crews, and dozers are fully staffed statewide."

They are urging property owners to fire proof their homes, and if they get an order to evacuate, leave right away.   

"When you start to get that funny felling that you shouldn't be where you are at, it's probably time to go," said Santa Maria Chief Dan Orr.

The chiefs met at the Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center.

They recall, in May of 2009 the nearby hills were burning in the Jesusita Fire. It destroyed over 80 homes and nearly 9000 acres.

Many people are on that same trail now, and hikers are urged to call emergency crews if they see smoke.  They are also advised to keep anything that could start a fire out of the local hills.  Trails author Ray Ford has seen these types of fires up close and said some of the behavior is "stupid."   He says the range is "open fires in grassy area, or starting a propane tank or leaving hot coals afterwards."

The chiefs also said they were impressed with the way the public is using technology to help each other in a disaster and also to find out about fire information.