Science could be the most valuable tool used to battle California firestorms

Posted at 4:12 PM, Dec 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-06 21:29:17-05

OTAY MESA, Calif. (KGTV) - Thousands of firefighters on the frontlines are using more than just water and equipment to battle California’s wildfires. They’re also using science.

“The science is important to understand,” said Captain Jeff Clyons. “It also dictates a little bit about how our tactics are going to work.”

Clyons is a Captain in the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. He’s also an instructor at Southwestern College’s Fire Science program. Southwestern also has the only Wildland Fire Academy in San Diego County.

Capt. Clyons said they continuously study the environment, its fuels, topography, and the weather.

“The weather conditions are one of the biggest factors,” he said.

He said science can’t predict how fire will react to Santa Anas, their strength, and which way they’ll spread the fire line.

“Science can’t answer that question,” said Clyons.

He added a Santa Ana driven firestorm is too dangerous to attack head-on. That forces firefighters to attack it from the sides and behind. In the meantime, firefighters can’t predict where the winds will blow embers that could create spot fires.

“Anywhere from a couple hundred feet to as much as a mile ahead of the fire,” said Clyons.