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San Diego County Firefighters Train For Wildfire Season

Above: Firefighters from around San Diego County teamed up near Barona in San Diego's East County to prepare for a potentially dangerous fire season, May 22, 2013.

Aired 5/23/13 on KPBS News.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters from around San Diego County teamed up for three days of wildfire training in preparation for a potentially dangerous fire season.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters from around San Diego County teamed up during three days of wildfire training in preparation for a potentially dangerous fire season.

In a mock situation, they worked to put out a fast-moving wildfire in East County. Fortunately, on this day, there were no flames and no danger.

Firefighters meet up after completing a brush clearing training in San Diego's East County on May 22, 2013.

Approximately 15 county fire agencies along with Cal Fire, the military, San Diego Police, National Weather Service, and SDG&E, took part in the three-day exercise. They practiced hose lays, aerial water assaults and clearing brush to make fire breaks.

They also reviewed electrical safety and what to do in a situation of entrapment.

California’s wildfire season is off to a ferocious start. According to Cal Fire, firefighters have battled 1,600 fires so far this year. That’s 500 more fires compared with the same period last year.

"We’re going to have to be really careful this year. We do every year, but we’re burning a little hotter and a little more extreme than normal," said Ken Kremensky, fire chief with the Barona Fire Department.

Kremensky said it's essential for all of the county fire departments to train together each year.

"A big part of it is relationships," Kremensky said. "Getting to know the other firefighters so when they do go to a fire, they’re already trained together. It smooths the operation."

Dry vegetation is a huge concern among the fire community. Rainfall is just 65 percent of normal and vegetation moisture levels in some inland areas are the driest they’ve been in nearly 100 years, according to the National Weather Service.

"The the lack of rainfall in the last year has caused the fuels to be burning. Right now, they’re burning like they would at the end of July," warned Kremensky.

He said the public is part of the firefighting team and plays a crucial role.

"Part of the partnership is the citizens out in the community as well, especially the folks living in the wildland areas. They can do a lot to help us out by clearing around their houses — the 100 foot clearance," Kremensky said.

On this day, firefighters won the battle. But Kremensky said they’re bracing for a tough fight ahead.

"The potential is if we get numerous fires, it’s really going to draw down the resources and those fires are going to get bigger and more difficult to control."

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