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San Diego Fire-Rescue Department increases staffing ahead of hot, dry conditions

Posted at 7:44 AM, Oct 20, 2019

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is increasing staffing ahead of Santa Ana winds expected to swirl around the county to start the work week.

On Sunday, 10News got a hands-on tour of Station 14 in North Park. It is one of five San Diego Fire stations with an engine, ladder truck, and now a fully staffed brush truck for the next two days.

"Our brush rigs are always able to be covered," San Diego Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Kelly Zombro said. "We just have to un-staff a rig to move over to it. In this case, those rigs are actually covered right now, and they can all go."

Because of the upcoming Santa Ana winds, the Department is staffing 25 additional crew members, specifically for wildfires. While engines and ladder trucks are most commonly used in day-to-day operations, the $500,000 brush truck is on a league of its own.

"It's imperative that we are able to make access quickly into areas where the engine cannot get into," Fire Engineer, Tim Swanson said. "And that's why we have these brush rigs."

Unlike the concrete jungle in New York City, the City of San Diego has many different kinds of terrain. Because of that, in the academy, all firefighters are trained in all three truck types: engine, ladder, and brush.

The brush truck has off-road tires, a 600-gallon tank, and specialized tools like backfire canisters, burn-over protection, and this triple hose backpack. The truck may even become a mobile home for the crew. That is why it has comfortable seats and carries household items.

"If we're out on a strike team, we are gone for sometimes two weeks at a time with little to no ground support," Swanson said. "So, we need to be self-sufficient for two weeks."

Even if fires do not erupt in our area, they are always ready to go.

"Sometimes, when [Northern California] is asking for help, we have to do it," Deputy Chief Zombro said. "And we just have to up our game down here to make sure we stay covered, and we've always done that."

After two days, the department will re-assess to see if they need to continue the increased staffing.

RELATED: How to prepare for a fire in San Diego County

Offshore winds from the northeast are expected to strengthen Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Relative humidity will also drop into the single digits in some areas Monday, the agency said.

RELATED: Check today's San Diego County forecast

Locally gusty offshore winds will continue into the morning Tuesday, diminishing by the afternoon.

Tuesday is also expected to be the warmest day of the week with temperatures warming into the 90s in the inland valleys and 80s along the coast.

As of Saturday morning, San Diego Gas and Electric says more than 1,000 people could be affected by planned outages as winds move through.

Check out the communities that could be impacted below:

  • Boulder Creek
  • Boulevard
  • Cameron
  • Crestwood
  • La Posta
  • Valley Center East
  • Viejas

Click here for updates from SDG&E.