Firefighters ready for predicted dry spell

Firefighters ready for predicted dry spell

12 March 2010

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USA —  With Guam and the rest of the region set to receive one-third less rainfall than normal, the Guam Fire Department is preparing to tackle any increase in grass fires and structure fires.

Specialist Joey San Nicolas said firefighters have been training to handle any hot situation the dry season may cause.

“It is an expectation every year and we do train up for it by doing internal class training and fire drills and check all of our equipment and make sure we are basically fit to fight fires,” San Nicolas said.

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a report on the drought condition within the region noting that fire dangers will increase “dramatically” and a reduction in the fresh water resources will make fire fighting difficult.

Moreover, it said that grass fire dangers on Guam will likely become severe.
Increased danger

“It’s going to jack up the fire dangers pretty good,” said Chip Guard, the warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service.

“We’re not expecting a whole lot of rainfall,” he added. “We could have another month of low rainfall.”

Guard said until now the island has experience little over an inch of rainfall and that computer models predict less than that for the Northern Marianas over the next 10 days.

“That’s pretty dry,” he said.

In February, the Pacific El Niño/Southern Oscillation Applications Climate Center released a special bulletin, which said that at the heart of the dry season — February through April — only 7.4 inches of rain is expected to fall. That is only 70 percent of the normal rainfall in these dry months, the center noted.

Also, the extended dry season, from May to June, only 65 percent of normal rain is estimated to fall.

Capt. Ed Flores, the acting spokesman for GFD, said the southern parts of the island — with its lush vegetation and rugged terrain — may pose some difficulty for fire officials but they are ready.

“The dry season for Guam — and this seem to be a particularly drier season than many of the other ones we’ve had recently — we are always prepared,” Flores said. “We have good mutual aid agreements with other agencies to include the forestry units, the Navy and the Air Force. So we’ve pretty much got everything covered as far as the grassfire season, … so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”
Get burning permits

Flores said residents must use caution as they burn items.

“We just would like for people to curtail their burning,” he said. “Make sure they get a permit when they do so, … because those are a major contributor to a lot of the grassfires out there.”

Guard said smokers need to be mindful of disposing their cigarettes out the window.

“The sticks and the limbs get extremely dry and the biggest source of grass fire is cigarette that continues to burn and the wind can cause it to start a fire,” Guard said. “Use your ashtray and don’t discard cigarettes out the window, especially in these dry periods.”

Fire officials will celebrate Fire Recognition Week through tomorrow. In a celebration held at Adelup yesterday, 54 firefighters received awards for the work they’ve done between 2004 and present. They were awarded for their unit and individual performance, as well as their life-saving abilities.

Five firefighters walked away with the firefighter of the year award.

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