SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8/CNS) - San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials are beefing up staffing levels in anticipation of increased fire activity this weekend.
Beginning 8 a.m. Saturday and continuing at least through Sunday, the department will deploy five additional brush engines, with four firefighters each, and an extra two water tenders, officials said.
"Several years of drought coupled with heavy rains this past winter created significant fuel in the form of underbrush and grass," department spokeswoman Monica Munoz said. "This fuel, combined with hot temperatures and low humidity, create conditions which are conducive to easily ignited and fast burning wildfires."
The danger is particularly acute in October, when California has experienced many of its deadliest and most dangerous fires, according to officials.
Brush engines, like the five extra the department will have on standby this weekend, are large, off-road-capable vehicles with a water capacity of 600- 1,500 gallons. The department's water tenders carry up to 3,000 gallons of water and provide water supply to engines at vegetation fires.
The National Weather Service issued a fire weather watch for parts of San Diego County on Saturday, as windy conditions were expected to elevate the risk of fires throughout the region this week.
Northeast winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour, with wind gusts of up to 55 miles per hour, were expected and a predicted drop in humidity in mountains and inland valleys will add to the increase in fire risk, the NWS said.
SDFD said some fire-related deaths occur because people wait too long to leave their homes. Officials urged residents not to wait to be told by authorities to evacuate if a severe fire is nearby, and not to hesitate if they are told to leave.
Both the San Miguel Fire District and Heartland Fire help open house events at East County fire stations Saturday, sharing educational resources with families like tips for creating defensible space and emergency plan development. The events were part of community outreach efforts during Fire Awareness week.
Heartland Fire has two more open house events scheduled next Saturday, October 14. The first is a pancake breakfast and open house event at a Lemon Grove station at 7853 Central Avenue from 7 a.m. to noon, and the second is an open house at 8054 Allison Avenue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Like firefighters, lifeguards are also on high alert as nice weather and high surf are expected to draw large crowds to area beaches this weekend.
South-facing beaches like Windansea could see sets up to 4 feet. Rip currents will also pose a danger, which has prompted an elevated lifeguard presence at pocket beaches like Windansea.
"Winter lifeguard staffing doesn't usually staff at pocket beaches like Windansea," San Diego Lifeguards Lt. Rich Stropky said. "So we do bring some seasonal lifeguards in to help mitigate some of our areas."