High fire danger warning for Bay Area

October 9, 2008 6:38:52 PM PDT
Red flag warnings are up until 6 p.m. Saturday, throughout the Bay Area and Monterey Bay. There is a wind advisory up until 5 a.m. Saturday. Guests, coming from the North, are expected to be up to 45 mph and possibly up to 60 mph over the hills.

Fire departments all around the Bay Area are watching conditions very closely and getting ready to respond. This time of year is considered the worst part of the fire season because of the unusual wind patterns and very dry grass, which create a very high fire danger.

High in the hills above Moraga, Engine Company 41 goes on patrol, checking out conditions, with two days of extreme fire danger on the way. That is despite relatively cool fall temperatures.

"What they're worried about it is the wind in particular. It's kind of similar to what we had with the Summit Fire in Santa Cruz," says Captain Sean McGee, from the Orinda-Moraga Fire Department.

It's a situation made more dangerous by low humidity and thick, dry grasses and other fuels that haven't seen much in the way of rain, since February.

In Marin County Thursday morning, crews were out clearing brush with weed whackers and chain saws, to try to get as prepared as possible.

"There's ridgelines that we think we can slow a fire and if we have a fuel break, a reduction in fuel loading, it gives our helicopters, hand crews, fire engines, and aircraft a chance to stop the fire," says Tim Walsh, Marin County Fire Department.

In Oakland, fire crews aren't running any extra patrols, but if a fire starts, the response will be twice what it would be in normal conditions.

"So what we'll get as a hill response during Red Flag would be six engine companies, two battalion chiefs, and one deputy chief. In addition, we'd get resources from our neighbors, the City of Berkeley, East Bay Regional Parks as well as Cal Fire would be involved in the response," says Lt. David Brue, Oakland Fire Department.

Just in time for this dangerous period, Oakland is about to take delivery on three new fire engines specifically designed to fight fire in a hill location. The engines are a couple of feet shorter than the existing engines. They also have a smaller turning radius which is a big benefit if there were a fire in the hills. Oakland hopes to have them here and ready to go by the 17th anniversary of the Oakland Hills Fire on October 20, 1991.


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