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Tired firefighters battle NorCal fires

June 23, 2008 7:03:48 AM PDT
Firefighters in Northern California have their hands full at this hour as they battle hundreds of fires in several counties. In all, almost 40,000 acres have burned. The most threatening of the fires is in Solano County, near the city of Fairfield.A barrage of anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 lightning strikes over the weekend in Northern California set more than 700 fires. It sent thousands of firefighters scurrying all over to protect homes. They're already tired from having to battle major blazes in the Santa Cruz Mountains and near Chico over the last couple of weeks.

"Usually when you can't walk, or when you're stumbling, or you're too tired to do anything, you need to take a break," said Capt. Bill Adams.

"We knew that weather system was moving in. So we went ahead and increased our staffing for the week, making sure all of our engines were available, moving some of our resources from the south part of the state where the fire danger wasn't as high, to the north," said Cal-Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

The Air National Guard members from Nevada and Oregon have come in to help.

With only enough time to grab the cats and important papers, the Oberholzers had to evacuate twice -- once Saturday, when the fire started, and again Sunday when the winds kicked up.

"It had completely turned. We had smoke and we could see flames. The fire department came to our door and said, 'You better get out now.' And they started throwing ladders on our roof," said evacuee John Olberholzer. "We decided it was a good time to leave again."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California, changed his schedule around to visit the area. With resources stretched so thin and fire season year-round now, he hopes the Legislature approves his proposal to add a $6 to $12 surcharge to every homeowners policy to beef up statewide emergency response.

"Our idea is to raise the homeowners insurance, and I think everyone will benefit," said Gov. Schwarzenegger. "Even though there are some people who have said, 'Well, I'm not living really where wildfires normally are.' But there really is no 'normal' anymore."

While the fire started in Napa County, it is now in neighboring Solano County. So the wine country's famous vineyards are safe for now.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service warns the conditions are ripe for more of the same.

 

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