News / USA

California Firefighters Ready for Severe Fire Season

California Firefighters Ready for Severe Fire Seasoni
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 12, 2014 7:08 PM
Years of drought have put California at risk of a serious fire season. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Hemet, California, where firefighters are training to be ready for the next big wildfire.
Mike O'Sullivan
Years of drought have put California at risk of a serious fire season, and firefighters in Hemet, California, are training to be ready for the next big wildfire.

Record high temperatures in May led to serious wildfires near San Diego, months before the fire season is usually under way. This followed nearly three years of drought and the driest year on record in 2013.  

The drought left the brush tinder-dry, said Captain Richard Cordova, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CAL FIRE.

“When we have higher temperatures, lower humidity and you throw winds in there, it is just a recipe for extreme fire danger," he said. "And when we see all those three elements come together, CAL FIRE reacts and starts moving equipment around.”
 
Tactical training

At the firefighter air base in the city of Hemet, a CAL FIRE air tactical unit trains to stay prepared.  

Helicopters take crews to the scene of wildfires and tankers drop flame retardant from the air.

Mike Venable, a contract pilot from the company DynCorp International, flies an air tanker for CAL FIRE, sometimes dousing minor fires on local grasslands.

“Everything from that to the challenging 12,000 or 14,000-foot [3,500 or 4,000-meter] peaks, maybe up in the high Sierras or in the forests that surround our base here, so it is a very big variety of flying. Some can be very dangerous, some not so dangerous,” said Venable.

Pilots and firefighters keep their bags packed and aircraft ready.  

Agile response

Daily weather briefings alert them to potential hot spots. Careful tracking of fuel load and weather forecasts help with flight planning.

Battalion Chief Travis Alexander said aircraft are stationed throughout California and can reach a fire in minutes, and are there to back up ground crews.

“Because the aircraft in this agency is just one of many tools. We have the hand crews, the [bull]dozers, engine companies, a variety of other assets," he said. "The air program comes in as a support function.”

At a nearby fire station, crews sort axes, shovels and other field tools, staying ready to fight both urban and wildland blazes.

Air and ground crews work to keep the fires away from homes and other buildings, said Venable.

“If you are able to help somebody on the ground, save a house, keep a firefighter out of a hazardous situation, that is rewarding,” he said.

It is a continuing effort to stay ahead of the fires. CAL FIRE has 5,000 permanent firefighters. It hired 300 recently because of the drought. Several thousand seasonal workers, including inmates from correctional facilities, help out every year.

State officials say their job this year is likely to be a tough one.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs