LOS ANGELES – A repeat of the hot, dry conditions that led to last year’s devastating wildfires prompted Southern California forestry officials on Monday to declare an early start to the fireseason.
Fire departments in the three southern counties hardest hit by the worst fires in California history will ratchet up their state of readiness by hiring seasonal firefighters, suspending burning permits and staffing all facilities around the clock.
The declaration in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties comes about three weeks earlier than last season, fire officials said.
If record-setting temperatures of the past two weeks persist, the rest of the state will open fire season by May 17, Jim Wright, chief of fire protection for the California Department of Forestry, said in a statement.
“It’s been hot and dry early this year and the weather forecasters expect it to continue,” Wright said. “We are gearing up for what could be a long, difficult fire season.”
Hot, dry conditions touched off 14 major wildfires in what forestry officials dubbed “The October Fire Siege of 2003.”
Those fires killed 24 people and destroyed 3,710 homes and about 750,000 acres of mainly mountain scrubland.