The Los Angeles County Fire Department met with other local and federal agencies in Diamond Bar to discuss and warn the public that the upcoming fire season will be “intense,” due to ongoing drought conditions in the state.
“The last fire season never really ended,” said Shawna Legarza, director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service. “We fought fires in mid-December and the middle of January. We’ve never had that before.”
The Forest Service director noted that California hasn’t had significant rainfall since 2010. Legarza said the ongoing drought means fire conditions are running two months ahead of what you would normally find.
Which means Southern California is dry as you would expect to find it in September. To cope, fire officials are preparing for wild fires much earlier than usual.
“We could have fires start all over the state in these conditions. So we started adding staff in January, that’s unprecedented,” explained Ken Pimlott, Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Cal Fire has spent $242 million in the fiscal year ending last night on wildland fires.
The conference was held one year to the day from when 19 firefighters were killed in the Yarnell Hills fire in Arizona. The firemen were remembered in several ceremonies Monday as well as by fire officials in Diamond Bar.
“I was a hotshot for 20 years and many of Granite Mountain Hotshots were my friends,” Legarza said. “I think about these people, as well as another 14 firefighters who died almost 20 years.”
That group of firefighters died July 6, 1994, on Storm King Mountain in Colorado’s South Canyon Fire. Though the investigations continue, shifting winds, steep canyons and a lack of situational awareness were all factors in the deaths.
Read more in Rich Irwin’s story WILDFIRE.