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Firefighters hired back as fire danger grows

  • Sabre Bruffy, left, and Chelsi Lee take advantage of the warm sunshine to practice their hooping skills at the Santa Rosa Junior College on Monday.

A marathon run of unusually high afternoon temperatures for January continues this week, helping spike high fire concerns with warnings of strong winds due overnight.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag watch for the North Bay hills starting Monday night through Tuesday morning. By mid morning Monday the level was bumped up to a red flag warning when the situation looked more serious.

It's high fire season in January.

CalFire has hired back seasonal firefighters throughout the state. Firefighting planes, typically mothballed for the winter, are ready and available in Chico for north state fires.

“I don't know of this ever happening in my career and as far as I know talking to other people, it's not something they've seen in their career,” said 17-year-veteran CalFire Capt. Amy Head.

Locally, firefighters still are lugging around their high-season wildland fire gear and keeping wildland engines at the ready.

“Normally we've stored all of our wildland tools away by this time. We haven't. We're still prepared,” said Cloverdale fire Battalion Chief Rick Blackmon. “It's just a real concern. We're still getting vegetation fires.”

“We're in the same boat,” said Geyserville fire Lt. James Tovani. “We haven't put away our gear and don't anticipate putting it away. It's bad.”

The two north county agencies respond to the open, hilly and dry Mayacamas range, including The Geysers region, in their backyards.

In November a grass fire sparked in The Geysers and grew to 3,500 acres.

The fire situation hasn't improved since then.

The calendar claims it's January, when the county's rolling hillsides should be green and strong winds can mean falling trees because of soggy ground.

But the hills are brown with just a few tinges of life. And windy days mean falling tree branches can hit power lines, touching off a spot fire that can quickly spread.

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