Many of our California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) members are gearing up for what looks to be a long, challenging fire season.
"We're at least 30 days ahead of where we should be in terms of fire conditions," said Bill Bondshu, president of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Services Association (FMESA). FMESA is an affiliate of CSLEA.
This year could be one of the driest ever due to the lack of rainfall from January to April. Already CAL FIRE reports, fire activity is up by more than 45 percent compared to previous years.
"Our CSLEA members who are deputy state fire marshals, arson investigators, fire service training specialists, firefighters, CAL FIRE communications operators, emergency management coordinators, our conservationists who lead CCC crews to assist firefighters at camp and to fight fires, all of them will be stretched thin from now until October and maybe even into November," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "They have very important life-saving jobs and they know this year looks like it will be a battle. Every Californian is going to have to be fire-safe."
Fire officials report they are increasing staffing levels and getting resources in place. California Conservation Corps (CCC) conservationists have been leading crews in clearing away brush along hillsides.
"CCC conservationists and their crews are indeed training statewide for another fire season and this one, we fear, may be a bad one," said Jim Kastner, president of the Association of Conservationist Employees (ACE). ACE is also a CSLEA affiliate. "They are training in the classroom and in the field. Our crews are clearing brush, constructing fire breaks and practicing their skills to respond to fires and provide for public safety throughout California."
Kastner said CCC conservationists are training some of their crews in emergency camp support and others for fire line duty. "I agree that due to the lack of rain this year, there is an expectation of a very active season."
CAL FIRE reports 680 wildfires which is 200 more than average for this time of year.
"We need everyone to do their part," said Bondshu. "Residents need to be serious about defensible space, make sure your address is visible to emergency responders, be safe with any type of flame and use brush clearing tools early in the day before things heat up."
Other helpful advice includes having an evacuation plan, having a list of items needed in case of an evacuation and do not hesitate to report any suspicious behavior to authorities.