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Our Future After the Fire: Preparing for wildfire season

Action News Now spoke with CAL FIRE about how they're preparing for this year's wildfire season.

Posted: Jun 20, 2019 6:26 PM
Updated: Jun 21, 2019 11:28 AM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - "There's gonna be fires we just don't know where they're at or where they're going to be at but it's gonna happen," Chico resident said.

CAL FIRE is on alert and ready for action. They are also keeping an eye on areas they say are at high risk for wildfire.

"[We are looking at] the footprints of fires from a couple years ago," said Rick Carhart, public information officer for CAL FIRE. "So within the last couple years we've had the Ponderosa fire, the Wall Fire, the Cherokee Fire the LaPorte Fire all happened in 2017." 

Carhart said fresh growth has exploded over those areas.

"And so they're drying out and very receptive to fire at this point," Carhart said.

Carhart said when a fire breaks out they send crews depending on the threat level: low, medium or high.

"Those are based on what we feel like the potential is and its also based on the manpower that we have the staffing that we have," Carhart said.

But staffing won't always save the day, like the morning of the Camp Fire.

"We could've had every one of our personnel and every one of our engines sitting at that - as close as we could get to the start of that fire - and it still would've gotten away," Carhart said. "There are just some things are of our control." 

Locals in the burn scar areas think that firefighters have done a good job. 

"I think the firefighters have done a great job they've got a hard job to do and this is a fire-prone area so we count on them to do that and we appreciate it," said a resident from Paradise. 

"I don't think that there's anything we could have done that could have averted that catastrophe," said Shem Hawkins is the Battalion Chief at the Air Attack Base in Chico. 

"My father was a chief with CAL FIRE so I understood the mentality of cal fire at a very young age. we've always been very aggressive at going after fires and if nothing else the Camp Fire has just reaffirmed in my mind just how important it is to get after fires," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said his team has a few new wildfire weapons on the way.

"Number one, our helicopters now carry about 324 gallons of water," Hawkins said. "The black hawk is gonna be able to carry about 1,000 gallons of water. So, in essence, we are going to be able to quadruple the amount of water that we're carrying over the top of the fire."

The new Black Hawk will be able to go out at night as well, something the current helicopters can't do now.

"At night what we've seen in the past is an increase in humidity [and a] decrease in temperatures," Hawkins said. "A lot of the benefits we're able to provide during the daytime for those ground troops are realized at night just from the natural occurrence of the sun going down but now we're going to be able to compound that." 

Hawkins said in a few years they're getting seven brand new c-130 aircraft.

"That'll be a huge impact for the citizens of California cause currently, our air tankers carry about 1,000 gallons of retardant and 1,200 gallons of retardant but those planes will be able to carry up to 4,000 gallons of retardant," Hawkins said. 

Hawkins said no matter the fire's size - when it breaks they're there.

"Every time that there's a vegetation fire in the north end of the county I know that I'm going so we make that jump and we get in the aircraft we get ready and we take off as quickly as possible," Hawkins said.

"Obviously knowing what happened last November they're more prepared I would think," said a Chico local. "And I thought they responded to it from perspective anyways did a great job but I think we can always do better." 

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 292560

Reported Deaths: 6718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1232563643
Riverside21957515
Orange20225376
San Diego17842406
San Bernardino16586293
Imperial7464125
Fresno728184
Alameda7245142
San Joaquin581761
Kern575987
Santa Clara5552165
Tulare5298148
Sacramento477678
Contra Costa424186
San Francisco407150
Ventura385850
Santa Barbara380830
San Mateo3743111
Marin323226
Stanislaus300450
Kings282338
Monterey227017
Solano192227
Merced162311
Sonoma148714
Placer97011
Madera8578
San Luis Obispo8453
Yolo76028
Santa Cruz5033
Napa4534
Sutter3234
San Benito3042
Butte2954
El Dorado2800
Lassen2670
Shasta1715
Humboldt1574
Nevada1551
Yuba1543
Glenn1530
Lake1001
Colusa980
Mendocino980
Tehama981
Calaveras610
Del Norte580
Tuolumne580
Mono491
Amador350
Inyo341
Siskiyou330
Mariposa311
Plumas150
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Few Clouds
95° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 95°
Oroville
Clear
94° wxIcon
Hi: 100° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 94°
Paradise
Few Clouds
95° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 95°
Chester
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 77°
Red Bluff
Clear
94° wxIcon
Hi: 100° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 94°
Willows
Few Clouds
95° wxIcon
Hi: 101° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 95°
The heat continues to rise around northern California as we progress through the week, and no real relief from this current heat wave is in sight.
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