Fire threat drops with rain

   Firefighters are breathing a little easier, thanks to soaking rains and predictions of more to come.

Since June 1, CalFire has been operating at peak-season staffing levels, with 26 state-funded fire engines in the county, each manned by four firefighters. But beginning Monday, Dec. 7, CalFire moved to ‘transitional staffing,’ reducing the number of fire engines to 18, said CalFire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler.

   And on Monday, Dec. 14, staffing levels were scheduled to be cut to three people per engine, said CalFire Battalion Chief Greg Griswold with the Ramona Fire Department.

   One thing that won’t change is the availability of firefighting aircraft, which are always standing by at the Ramona Air Attack Base.

   “With the amount of rain we are getting and with the fuel for fires taking that moisture in, there is a lot less chance of fires for sure, at least for now,” Griswold said. “We are all loving it.”

   Schuler agreed that “a wetting rain has reduced the potential for large fires,” but he stressed that the fire season is year-round and “we have the ability to quickly increase staffing if warmer weather is on the way.”

   “If Santa Ana winds are predicted, we will increase staffing prior to that,” he said.

   “It might be pouring down rain now, but in a week or two the potential to have a fire is still there,” Schuler said. “And most of the burned areas have grown back and have the potential to burn again.

   “All of this wet reduces the fire danger now, but it brings back the brush and grass around homes, which will become brown and dry in the next few months. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s exactly what it is—a vicious cycle.”

   
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