South Valley fire crews prepare for a busy fire season


Fire trucks and dozers are in the shop preparing for a busy and early wildland fire season. Tulare Unit Chief Paul Marquez said even though the area has seen some rain, the dry brush that fuels wildfires is still dry and not doing the best job of soaking up the latest moisture.

"People are out doing what their supposed to do and clearing their vegetation and if they can they'll burn the vegetation but sometimes it can get away from them and we have had recently some wildland fires," Paul Marquez with Cal Fire said.

For the first time ever Cal Fire is hiring its seasonal firefighters in February, the earliest they have ever hired in the past was in April of 1978. Marquez said the 15 firefighters were surprised to get the call, but are ready to get back to work after just getting off of last year's fire season in December. Starting this year's fire season early has some officials worried.

"It does and that's why we're preparing now I'd rather us just prepare now and bring our firefighters on now than to just play catch up later," Marquez said.

A rural mountainous area in Orosi was victim to a two acres fire. Over the last several weeks Cal Fire has responded to eight wildfires, compared to none at this time last year.

"You'll notice that some of the hills are not as green as they have been in the past so it'll allow those light flashy fields to grow the fuels that will carry a fire into the heavier fuels," Marquez said.

Cal Fire is already under strict water use restrictions, cutting down on the number of times they wash the fire engines and water their lawns. The 15 firefighters are in training right now and will be starting work on Monday.

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