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California Braces For A Hot Fire Season

Aired 7/5/12 on KPBS News.

California's fire season is lining up to be a tough one this year. The state's fire fighting agency, Cal Fire, has already fought 1,000 more wildfires this year, compared to last year.

— State firefighters say this summer and fall's wildfire season is expected to be difficult this year.

The California Department of Forestry, Cal Fire, reported the number of fires in the first six months of the year was about 500 above what was expected.

A CALFIRE air tanker.
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Above: A CALFIRE air tanker.

A long dry winter means there's plenty of fuel in rural areas and that raises the risk if temperatures climb.

While the number of blazes is up, firefighters are doing their job because there have not been any big headline-grabbing wildfires.

"The good news is, we've kept the majority of the fires very small and damage to a minimum," said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire. "And just to put that in perspective for you, last week we responded statewide, just in our jurisdiction which is about a third of the state, to 270 wildfires. Which many people didn't hear about because we did keep them small."

Money could become an issue if there are lots of large fires, according to Upton. Cal Fire has taken $80 million in budget cuts over the past few years. That's forced the agency to roll back some staffing.

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