Thursday, November 27, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Weary crews prepare for long wildfire season

APTOPIX California Wildfires

A paddle boarder watches Friday as two firefighting helicopters take on water from the Pacific Ocean off San Clemente. AP photo

By
From page A2 | May 18, 2014 |

ESCONDIDO (AP) — Firefighters scoured charred hillsides north of San Diego on Saturday to guard against a resurgence of flames that ripped through the region, while the last of tens of thousands of evacuees prepared to return home. For those battling a series of blazes for days, the relief was mixed with a sense of dread that drought-sapped vegetation, high temperatures and low humidity portend a long fire season ahead.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to more than 1,500 fires this year, compared with about 800 during an average year.

“Normally, I don’t even put wildfire gear in my vehicle until the end of April. This year I never took it out,” said Kirk Kushen, battalion chief of the Kern County Fire Department said at a base camp in Escondido. “We never really completed the 2013 fire season. It’s been a continuation.”

At least 10 fires spanning 39 square miles have chewed a destructive path through San Diego County since Tuesday, destroying 11 houses, an 18-unit apartment complex and two businesses. A badly burned body was found in a transient camp, and one firefighter suffered heat exhaustion.

The first blaze was caused by a spark from construction equipment, according to state officials, but it could take months to get to the bottom of the most damaging fires. Alberto Serrato, 57, pleaded not guilty Friday to an arson charge in connection with one of the smaller fires, but authorities say they don’t believe he started it, just added brush to it.

Ocean breezes and lower temperatures Saturday aided firefighters, who focused on a 1,000-acre blaze on the Camp Pendleton Marine base and a 4-square-mile blaze that started in the suburb of San Marcos.

Firefighters doused remaining hotspots with hoses and water-filled backpacks, sawed large logs and raked soil with shovels and other hand tools to ensure the ground was moist enough to prevent fires from returning.

Kushen, who was working his 10th straight day and was nearly 27 hours into his shift as his team prepared to go rest at a hotel, saw between 15 and 20 destroyed houses or other structures while combing the hills in and around San Marcos for smoke and smoldering brush.

San Marcos, a suburb of 85,000 people where strip malls and new housing tracts mix with older homes, slowly returned to normal as more roadblocks were removed.

“It’s such a wonderful blessing to be back,” Jamie Williams said as he unloaded three bags of clothing from his car that he took when ordered to evacuate Wednesday night. “It was almost a teary-eyed kind of thing.”

Many evacuations have been lifted, including some on Saturday, but it was unclear when all would be allowed to return to their homes, said Kendal Bortisser, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A strike team from Yolo County in Northern California walked hillsides to ensure that nothing within 100 feet of homes could ignite, a final step before allowing residents to return.

“This is a last effort to make sure everything is nice and cool,” said Capt. Cess Mercado of the University of California, Davis, Fire Department who typically doesn’t come to Southern California to assist with firefighting until late August.

The tinder-box conditions have put firefighters on alert throughout California. The state firefighting agency went to peak staffing in the first week of April, instead of its usual start in mid-May.

Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor of the Paso Robles Fire Department in central California usually doesn’t leave home until late July to assist other agencies during the fire season. He was dispatched to the Los Angeles area in January and led a crew that began work near San Diego on Thursday.

“There hasn’t been a break,” said Taylor, as he at lunch on a shaded tree while on orders to be ready to move on three minutes’ notice. “It’s almost a 12-month fire season.”

————

By Elliot Spagat. Associated Press videographer Haven Daley contributed to this report.

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Food fight … in a good way

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Fremont Weir parking lot remains closed

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1

    Occupy movement settles in at UC Davis

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Time to give thanks for nature’s beauty

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Second cat-hoarding suspect arrested

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Guard reinforcements contain damage in Ferguson

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Weather affecting Thanksgiving travelers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Year-end films to see, or not, on KDRT

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    LCI marks 50 years with special service

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Happy Thanksgiving from The Enterprise

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Learn to use Skype at Connections Café

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Girls who volunteer may apply for grant

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Round up at the registers for Davis schools

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis Community Gift Project brightens holidays for children

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

     
    Speaker proposes changes in humanities doctorate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Senior Center hosts holiday sing-along

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Sutter sponsors qigong for holiday de-stress

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Boy Scouts start Christmas tree sales on Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Volunteers needed to grow plants for habitat restoration

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Rainbow City community meeting set Dec. 1

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    She wants more from him

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Musings in the wake of Ferguson decision

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Rich Rifkin: Is it time to be a bear or a bull?

    By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6

    Planting love at new home

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Innovation parks comparison

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Blue Devils prepare for a new season on the mat

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    No excuses, but there’s hope for UCD after 2-9 season

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Joseph, Manzanares lead 10 All-Big Sky Aggie picks

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS wrestling is not just for boys

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Let’s not lose another good DHS coach

    By Chris Saur | From Page: B1

     
    Davis Little League offers early sign-up discounts

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    Kings get past Pelicans

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    .

    Features

    Salute to non-steamed broccoli

    By Dan Kennedy | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Arts

    It really is ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Elzyne Thompson

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Death notice: Buddy Ralph Mills

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Ready, Set, Shop!

    Shop locally: You can have your pie and eat it too

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: RSS1

    Santa’s little helper: secrets to happy holiday shopping

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: RSS2

    Make sure it gets there: deadlines for shopping and shipping

    By The Associated Press | From Page: RSS2

    Downtown lights up at holiday open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: RSS3

    Full of warm wishes and over-sharing, the holiday card lives on

    By The Associated Press | From Page: RSS4

    Shop smart: Protect your wallet and your identity this shopping season

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RSS5

    Woodland celebrates the holidays downtown

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RSS5