Winter Fire Weather Prompts SoCal National Forests to Staff Up

A fire lookout tower near Lake Morena in Cleveland National Forest.

A fire lookout tower near Lake Morena in Cleveland National Forest. | Photo: Steve Weatherford/Flickr/Creative Commons License

It's not unusual to have a Santa Ana wind event this time of year, but what's getting the attention of wildland fire managers is how dry this winter has been so far. Without the rain, the chaparral and other plant life that dominate the various mountain ranges of Southern California can easily become fuel for fires. That's why a Red Flag warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, a move that has prompted the four national forests in the region to be on alert.

In Cleveland National Forest, which covers parts of San Diego and Orange counties, round-the-clock staffing has been implemented. "Typically during the winter, our firefighters work from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but because of the current fire danger level, we need our firefighters to be able to respond to a fire immediately," explained Carlton Joseph, a fire management officer.

Nathan Judy, a fire information officer in Angeles National Forest, said extra staff and equipment will be sent to each call to make sure any fire is attacked aggressively. "We will have extra fire patrols out saturating the forest looking of any misuse of fire," he added.

Similar plans have been made by fire officials in San Bernardino and Los Padres national forests.

Restrictions on fires in each forest may vary -- check with your destination's local ranger station -- but in general, California Campfire Permits are currently required.

Barring any changes in weather, the Red Flag is expected to be lifted Wednesday at 6 p.m. The National Weather Service is characterizing this fire weather as "extreme" and "critical."

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