Fire agencies urging public to prepare for wildfire season


REDDING, Calif. - Firefighting agencies from across the Northstate gathered Tuesday to talk about wildfire awareness and make sure the public is ready to go.

Governor Jerry Brown declared May 7-13 "Wildfire Awareness Week" throughout the state and urged homeowners to prepare for the season ahead.

CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott said his crews were ready to go this year. "We need the public to really be paying close attention that it's fire season in California and it could be just as bad as any other year," said Pimlott.

The biggest issue crews could face this year is not the fire potential, tall grasses or dead trees, but complacency from the public. Pimlott said that's what happens after any region like the Northstate experiences a quiet season like 2016 followed by an extremely wet winter.

"People tend to focus on other things. They're not living it. People's memories of the catastrophic times are short-lived. So we depend on people's understanding of fire to really help get our message," said Pimlott.

According to CAL FIRE, crews have already responded to 484 wildfires burning 7,707 acres this year. Between January 1 and April 29, 2016 crews had responded to 553 fires burning only 831 acres.

"It's going to be a real and continued aggressive initial attack. We got significant number of resources out there that are available to respond, working together with all of our partners," said Pimlott.

Pimlott added there was plenty of work still to be done to prevent the next large outbreak, and with so many agencies, a strong partnership between every agency was needed.

"California has 39 million people that live here with multiple jurisdictions across the state, 1,000 local government fire departments, federal agencies, state agencies. Coordination is absolutely critical," said Pimlott.

Another issue firefighters will face this wildfire season is the amount of dead trees in the mountains. CAL FIRE estimates around 102 million trees died as a result of the drought, either from lack of rainfall or infected by bark beetles.

In a press release for Tuesday's event Pimlott stated, "We continue to see the effects of our changing climate on the landscape. Fire seasons are getting longer and hotter, and there had been a significant increase in the occurrence of large and damaging wildfires. We need all Californians to prepare for wildfires."

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