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High fire danger in the high desert

October 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Warm temperatures, winds and low humidity added up to high fire danger in the Southland Friday. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for the high deserts. Communities like Devore and Palmdale are bracing for a busy fire season.

Last October, wildfires destroyed 1500 homes and burned more than 500,000 acres in Southern California. Hot, fierce Santa Ana winds fanned the flames, making matters worse.

The winds at the Cajon pass started to pick up on Friday, but those warm Santa Ana winds are expected again near the end of the weekend.

"Generally when you're going to get these winds and fires start, history has shown us you're going to get more than one fire started. So, we have to be prepared in Southern California to be able to provide that capability no matter where the fire starts," said Deputy Chief Rocky Opliger, United States Forest Service.

In the Inland Empire, firefighters were getting ready on Friday. Three air tankers were sitting on the tarmac, prepped and ready to go.

If a fire broke out in the mountains, fire officials say they are required to have aircrafts off the ground within 15 minutes.

Each Airtanker can carry almost 3,000 gallons of fire retardant, but they're not the only tools at a firefighter's disposal.

There are two Skycrane helicopters stationed in San Bernardino. They're the largest firefighting helicopters in the world, and they're very efficient in high wind conditions.

"They can be used in the neighborhoods because they can pick up water at a close by area, while our fixed-wing aircraft have to return here to San Bernardino," said Tom Inocencio, U.S. Forest Service.

Two helicopters are standing by. Starting on Sunday, firefighters will be working around-the-clock; bracing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

"The conditions are such that it's the driest time of year, our fuel moistures are extreme critical. So, we need to be prepared, we might get lucky and not get winds, but we need to be prepared for the worst case conditions," said Opliger

While the winds are picking up quickly in the high desert, there is concern for the valley below due to dry brush. When the warm Santa Ana winds blow off the mountain, into the valley, fire danger will be at its peak.

 

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