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San Miguel Fire Chief Says Heat Condition Ripe For Wildfires

Evening Edition

Above: Interim San Miguel Fire Chief Gary Croucher talks to KPBS about how to prevent wildfires.

Aired 7/11/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guest

Interim San Miguel Fire Chief, Gary Croucher

Transcript

July 8, San Miguel Firefighters extinguished a fire at the base of Mt. Helix.  The blaze burned half an acre before it was contained.  The property owner told fire officials he was using a weed wacker to clear his land. He said he set the machine down on dry grass not realizing the engine was hot, and the fire took off so fast he was unable to put it out.
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Above: July 8, San Miguel Firefighters extinguished a fire at the base of Mt. Helix. The blaze burned half an acre before it was contained. The property owner told fire officials he was using a weed wacker to clear his land. He said he set the machine down on dry grass not realizing the engine was hot, and the fire took off so fast he was unable to put it out.

An excessive heat warning for San Diego County's desert areas remained in effect for a second day today, when highs are forecast to climb well above 100 degrees.

Interim San Miguel Fire Chief Gary Croucher told KPBS the heat creates perfect conditions for fires to start and spread.

“The heat not only affects the fuel moistures, it affects the firefighters themselves, as far as their abilities to their job, and with the winds that come up," he said. "Luckily right now we don’t have the east winds, but all of the other conditions are lined up to the point in time where for us we’re extremely concerned."

He said this year has the same potential for wildfires as 2003 and 2007, when San Diego County weathered the Cedar Fire and the Harris Fire.

"We just prepare ourselves for those type of events," he said. "Hopefully any fire starts small. Our goal is to keep those as small as possible.”

Croucher said to prevent fires, people should clear away their weeds, but to try not cut their weeds after 10 a.m. Authorities said the fire in Mt. Helix last week was started by heat from a weed whacker.

An excessive heat warning for the deserts is scheduled to expire at 10 p.m. Wednesday. The maximum daytime temperatures in the deserts are expected to be 112 to 118 degrees, while the minimum nighttime temperatures will likely be 80 to 90 degrees.

"The combinations of hot days along with very warm nights can result in very oppressive conditions, in which the body cannot recover as quickly,'' the NWS said in an advisory. "Conditions like heat stroke or heat exhaustion are possible, especially if engaging in strenuous outdoor activities. This weather could be deadly for unprepared campers or hikers.''

A no-burn proclamation issued by Cal Fire on Monday remained in effect this morning. The proclamation means the use of any open fire is forbidden until further notice.

A slow cooling is expected to begin Friday and continue through the weekend, according to the weather service.

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