California gearing up for bad wildfire season

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 18, 2014 at 6:48 pm •  Published: May 18, 2014
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — All evacuation orders were lifted Sunday as firefighters gained the upper hand on the remaining four of nearly a dozen blazes that tore through Southern California last week — while the governor warned the state was gearing up for what could be one of the drought-stricken region's worst wildfire seasons.

Gov. Jerry Brown told ABC's "This Week" that the state has 5,000 firefighters and has appropriated $600 million to battling blazes, but that may not be enough in the future.

"We're getting ready for the worst," Brown said. "Now, we don't want to anticipate before we know, but we need a full complement of firefighting capacity."

The state firefighting agency went to peak staffing in the first week of April, instead of its usual start in mid-May.

Thousands of additional firefighters may be needed in the future, Brown said, adding that California is on the "front lines" of climate change that is making its weather hotter.

All evacuation orders were lifted Sunday as ocean breezes and lower temperatures over the weekend allowed firefighters to get the upper hand on the remaining fires. They included a 4-square-mile blaze that started in the suburb of San Marcos and three brush fires at Camp Pendleton.

Unusually high temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds set conditions last week for the string of wildfires that broke out in San Diego County, causing more than $20 million in damage.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to more than 1,500 fires this year, compared with about 800 during an average year.

"And in the years to come, we're going to have to make very expensive investments and adjust," Brown said. "And the people are going to have to be careful of how they live, how they build their homes and what kind of vegetation is allowed to grow around them."