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Firefighters urge vigilance

They encourage residents to clear brush before fire season starts.

June 09, 2010|By Veronica Rocha

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — With the onset of the dry summer conditions and fewer resources due to statewide budget constraints, local fire officials on Tuesday warned residents to be prepared for a tough fire season.

The danger of fire in the Angeles, Cleveland and San Bernardino national forests reached a high mark before Memorial Day, Angeles National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron said at a news conference in the hills above La Cañada Flintridge.

"It's very early in the season for us to be going into such a high level, but what folks need to understand is . . . please do not become complacent," she said. "Please do not become complacent because of the rainfall we have had this winter. Do not become complacent because of the June gloom . . . It is drying out very rapidly up there within the national forest."

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Representatives of fire agencies in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties met Tuesday morning with other emergency officials to coordinate their firefighting tactics.

On Tuesday, they advised foothill residents to also prepare a "Ready, Set, Go" wildfire action plan.

The fire season has already begun in Southern California, with 240 fires torching 2,200 acres and one structure, Riverside Fire Chief John Hawkins said.

"We asked that the public not be complacent, and they do their brush clearance and be sure that they understand that weather is the serious factor that affects wildfire spread," he said.

Of the 20 largest fires in California history, more than half occurred in the last four years, Hawkins said.

A prolonged drought and dry vegetation have contributed to the increase in fires, said Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

"That's why . . . we emphasize the importance to the public to prepare your property, to be ready, to be set, and when asked to evacuate, please cooperate and remove yourself and your loved ones and animals so that the firefighters can focus on protecting your property and trying to protect their lives," he said.

Another concern for fire agencies is dwindling statewide budgets, said Fire Chief Kim Zagaris of the California Emergency Management Agency.

About 1,000 fire agencies were generally available to provide additional support statewide during the typical fire season, but that dwindled by 10% last year due to local city budget cuts, he said.

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