Crews prepping for early fire season due to drought

Crews prepping for early fire season due to drought »Play Video
Crews battle a wildfire in Kern County in a September 2011 file photo.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The Kern County Fire Department is gearing up for an early fire season due to the drought, something a department official called "very abnormal" for this time of year.

The move to begin early preparations came the same week that the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for the area, tweeting: "Based on our records, we've never issued a Red Flag Warning in the month of January."

Brett Grassi, spokesman for KCFD, told Eyewitness News on Thursday the department is extending days and hours for at least one crew.

"Typically, at this time of the year, you'll see a lot of the hand crews get laid off for three months out of the year," Grassi said. "This year we're keeping one of our crews available seven days a week. They're working their normal four-day schedule, but they are on call."

In addition to the extra days, shift hours are being extended on average two or three hours.

"Financially, we're paying a little extra money to keep them around a little bit later during the day to provide the fire protection that we require," Grassi said.

"Usually the opportunity to fight fires in the outskirt area, rural communities, the mountains at this time of the year are pretty minimal. This year, we don't have rain. The humidity in the air is low, much lower than it ever is during this time of the year," he added.