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Climate and Environment

Fire Officials Brace For A Hotter, Drier Fire Season

A firefighter sprays water on hotpots in a burned canyon behind homes destroyed by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California.
A firefighter fights hotpots in a burned canyon behind homes destroyed by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, May 12, 2022.
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AFP via Getty Images)
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If you thought fire season was bad in previous years, Southern California fire officials warn we may be in for the worst fire season yet.

Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy says conditions are hotter and drier this year as the state's severe drought drags on.

"I'm not a scientist, but I've been doing this 40-plus years, and I've never seen fire spread the way it does," Fennessy said. "I've never seen what we're experiencing today."

Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby agrees.

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“This is my 11th year as the fire chief,” Osby said. “And so nine out of the 11 years, I feel like a scratched record. I've said the same thing — 'this year is going to be hotter, and it's going to be drier.' This is the continuing drought that we're in.”

He says three years of severe drought make fires faster and harder to control.

“These fires can start easier as it relates to the fact that the fuel moisture is a lot lower," Osby said. "So it could be a simple spark, or something from your weed whacker, or your lawnmower or vehicle accidents.”

The upcoming hotter-than-usual summer leads Southern California into the fall when the risk of wind-driven fires increase.

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“We're going to augment our firefighting staff to ensure that we hire additional firefighters to put them in the wind prone areas, in the right areas, for a quick response,” he said.

Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties have formed a collaborative, committed to sharing air resources. The mutual aid will make close to 50 firefighting helicopters available to help fight fires. In September, LACO Fire expects to bring back its super scoopers in early September, in time for the traditional arrival of Santa Ana winds.

Angeles National Fire Chief Bobby Garcia said the forest areas are already under fire restrictions. “So that's a clear indication of the conditions that are set for going into summer fire season,” he said.

Officials are stressing the public's role in preventing wildfires, including clearing brush around homes.

Captain Erik Scott with the Los Angeles Fire Department said,"we will provide the offense, you will provide the defense.”

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