Cal Fire on alert throughout red flag warning

Extra firefighters, air and ground units ready

RAMONA, Calif. - The Cal Fire Air Tactical Base at the Ramona Airport is fully staffed and equipped during the red flag warning in effect until Saturday night.

Even with the full staffing, an additional air tanker was flown in from Sacramento Friday, four additional engines are on line and three helicopters are ready to go.

Spotter planes have upgraded the latest weapon in the firefighting arsenal -- the infrared camera under the cockpit. It's battlefield technology adjusted for firefighters.

"When we go over the fires, we can turn that camera on, focus it on the fire and the ground troops or incident commander on the ground is able to see what the air attack ship is seeing," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Burke Kremensky.

Called the Next Generation Incident Command System, a computer links it to those calling the shots from a command post and the firefighters on the ground. It works even in the heaviest smoke.

"When you're up there, there's a lot of smoke, high elevations and sometimes you won't be able to see through the smoke so you don't know if a fire's impacting a neighborhood. This infrared can see a community at risk and we're able to evacuate in a timely response," Kremensky added.

People in Ramona are watching the skies, mindful of what they went through five years ago.

Resident Ann Mundt was asked, "Are you worried this time?"

She replied, "No, no I'm not."

Surrounded by fire in 2007 and frightened, Mundt doesn't feel as threatened now.

"So far, it doesn't feel devastating. It is dry and the pollen is moving, but if it doesn't go on too long I think it might be alright," said Mundt.

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