Red Flag Warnings in effect in Bay Area

September 20, 2009 5:38:24 PM PDT
Bay Area fire crews are facing a high fire danger this week, but the danger is really a statewide problem.

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As authorities in Southern California spent the day mopping up a wildfire that broke out Saturday night in the Cleveland National Forest, crews in the Bay Area are trying to prevent the same thing from happening there. A Red Flag warning is in effect and with that, fire crews in the Oakland Hills will begin stepping up patrols of some of the hot spots areas. Some of those places are areas that were destroyed by fire 18 years ago.

"I stood right along this bend right here and watched a whole apartment burn down," Oak Fire engineer Ulysses Williams told ABC7.

Williams has seen the worst. He was on duty back in 1991 on the day when the Oakland Hills Fire started.

"We was told to come to this area and stand by. Then we went from standby to actively fighting a fire," he recalled.

On Sunday, local firefighters were hoping to avoid that exact scenario. The Red Flag Warning runs from Sunday evening through Tuesday. Williams and the crew from Station 7 patrolled their Oakland Hills territory Sunday with warnings of the high fire danger in mind.

"This is an example of an area where you can definitely see where there's potential," Oakland Fire Captain Tracey Chin said, pointing out an area.

They were looking for anything that could make the dangerous combination of hot weather, low humidity and dry wind even worse. Things like barbecues and yard work are discouraged on days as hot as Sunday.

"All it takes is for a weed wacker to pick up a stone and hit another stone or rock, and spark something," explained Chin.

Most of the homes in the Oakland Hills area were burned down to the foundation. Dry trees that light up like matchsticks still line some of the streets there. But, as the 18th anniversary quickly approaches next month, many neighbors seem to have gotten the message. They have cleared the brush on their property and taken away at least some of the threat.

On Sunday morning, Oakland firefighters changed signs alerting residents to the high fire danger. They say they will continue patrolling hot spots and looking for hazardous activities like people using yard tools they should not be using on hot days.

MORE: ABC7's Bay Area wildfire resource guide and safety tips
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