SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Strong winds and dry conditions had fire crews preparing for the worst across the Sacramento region on Monday night.
A red flag warning took effect for much of northern California that will last through Wednesday morning.
“You need to be prepared, you need to exercise the evacuation orders and really treat this like a tornado warning, it’s that critical,” said Mike Mohler, Deputy Director with Cal Fire.
Mohler says the public may have a false sense of security. But just because we are not seeing hot temperatures, the low humidity and strong winds are the perfect recipe for an explosive fire.
“The red flag warning kicks up at 11, but weather models show it’s gonna strengthen,” said Mohler.
Calfire is increasing its staffing, including additional air resources.
“In anticipation of the red flag warning, we staffed additional ground crews, fire engines, bulldozers, hand crews. If a fire breaks in the early hours, we can bring aircraft earlier than sunrise to respond,” he said.
October is typically the most dangerous month for wildfire risk in the state, and with the recent deadly wildfires that have ripped through neighborhoods, no agency is taking chances.
“This is the time of year we see some of our most significant fires,” said Mohler.
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is positioning strike teams of fire engines, water tenders and emergency dispatchers in 6 counties including Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Contra Costa, Lake and Alameda.
Meanwhile, many living in El Dorado County wonder if PG&E will be shutting off power again as it did for thousands of residents about 2 weeks ago to avoid the fire threat.
“I’m hoping they figure out a different alternative, otherwise we have to shut our doors,” said Ben Butler, owner of Bene Ristorante Italiano.
PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo says the “forecast does not indicate a need for a power shut off” but they are monitoring weather conditons closely if that should change.
In a statement Monday Merlo adds, ” PG&E has a plan, and we encourage our customers to have a plan, too. We also ask our customers to go to www.pge.com/mywildfirealerts to make sure we have their contact information.
“Factors that help determine whether PG&E initiates a Public Safety Power Shutoff include: strong winds; very low humidity levels; critically dry vegetation that could fuel wildfires; and on-the-ground, real-time observations from field crews. While PG&E monitors and considers Red Flag Warnings issued by the National Weather Service, a Red Flag Warning does not automatically trigger a Public Safety Power Shutoff.”
“This time they’re not seeing the need for a power shut off which is worrisome seeing the same type of conditions out, but a different response. I really hope that PG&E is on top of what they’re doing,” said Tiffani Lacey, resident of El Dorado County.
Cal Fire is hoping the public takes notice.
“If first responders are preparing, the public needs to as well,” said Mohler.
PG&E is working on a report due out this week that will detail what they learned from the last power outage and changes they’ll make.
Officials urge the public to avoid outdoor activities that can spark a fire near dry vegetation. They also remind people to have an emergency plan in place.