Red Flag Warning Prompts Officials To Beef Up Fire Crews Across Southland

The precautionary measure applies to Riverside County, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

File photo of the Aug. 2013 Falls Fire that burned west of Lake Elsinore.  Photo/Toni McAllister
File photo of the Aug. 2013 Falls Fire that burned west of Lake Elsinore. Photo/Toni McAllister

A Red Flag Warning for expected Santa Ana wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour prompted firefighters to beef up their ranks in Riverside County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention reported.

Cal Fire's precautionary measure would apply not just to Riverside County but to San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties as well, Cal Fire officials said.

The warning issued by the National Weather Service predicted that the winds would blow into Riverside County mountains, including the San Jacinto Ranger District, starting tonight. A strong ridge of pressure is expected to result in Santa Ana conditions over Southern California for much of next week, the NWS reported.

Very dry air, coupled with periods of gusty winds, will result in what the NWS called in critical fire weather conditions.

Cal Fire officials asked the public to not mow or trim dry grass on windy days, to never pull a vehicle in dry grass and to never burn leaves or branches on No Burn Days or whenever its windy.

Firefighters also cautioned residents to target shoot in approved areas and to use lead ammunition only, and to never shoot at metal targets. Campfires should always be extinguished completely and all portable, gasoline-powered equipment should have spark arresters, Cal Fire advised. --City News Service  

ChrisG January 12, 2014 at 06:14 PM
@jim, how about neither. At the most these folks should be on call and ready to get to work fast. There's no need to pay overtime for that. As for banning things, how about holding people accountable for starting fires?
Just my opinion January 12, 2014 at 08:33 PM
JimD - Absolutely! I agree with your common sense. ChrisG - you are also right. It is the pay hungry fireman themselves who put themselves on-call, pushing a public sky-is-falling fear of wildfires to justify it. I understand the heroic service they provide when we need them. Paying then to sit in the station and play Xbox is not my idea of the wise use of taxpayer's funds.
Dee January 12, 2014 at 11:40 PM
Oh, I so disagree! In court the deputy sits in his corner during criminal trials. He just sits. Read the paper, crosswords, etc. every now and then the defendant goes berserk, tipping the table, spitting at jurors, cutting defense attorneys. The deputy acts swiftly and aggressively. Every once in a while this happens. It's good to know his presence is there, just for moments as these. I feel the same way about firefighters. It's comforting to know they will respond swiftly and aggressively. Can't put a dollar figure on that.
ChrisG January 12, 2014 at 11:49 PM
@dee, your analogy does not work. Firefighters are required to live in the area. They should just be on call and ready to report to work. There is always someone working so equipment is ready.
SA January 13, 2014 at 10:52 AM
I can’t wait until Al Gore next documentary on “Global Warming” causing wild fires. Maybe he will film a Woodpecker stranded on a tree branch and blame it on the Johnson Family’s fireplace #sarcasm … Simple solution is a duty team, standby / on call team and relief team and rotate … Only the duty team should get paid … But this is Commi California and the Union(s) would gripe about fairness etc. so I suppose every single firefighter should be on the clock, right?
Just my opinion January 13, 2014 at 11:27 AM
SA - to be sure. That's why fire stations are already manned with whole shifts 24/7. What we are discussing here is the idea of having additional personnel (due to a nebulous threat of the wind and dry weather) being paid 24 hours of overtime per shift (1 1/2 pay rate) as extra personnel - even while they are sleeping. Get a clue! This is a complete waste of money. Fire shifts are already suspect. They should work the same shifts as every other 24 hour emergency staff - 8 or 12 hour shifts.
Dee January 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM
Ooh, I stand corrected! @just my opinion, you explained.
SA January 13, 2014 at 12:48 PM
JMO: Oh man … in lieu of paying “questionable overtime” … pay all the same, just assign more firefighters / personnel to on call and or standby … The only difference it would make is personnel may go from 1 to 2 on call and or standby per week to 3 to 4 per week (whatever their regular rotation is)…It is simple logic … ex Section A, B, C, D, E, F will become AB, CD, EF, then BA, DC, FE …
Fred Garvin January 13, 2014 at 05:21 PM
Paying all this overtime is just crazy. Who cares if a few homes and an extra thousand acres burn up just because we don't have extra firefighters available right away. That's life, dammit! Homes can be rebuilt with insurance. And sure, someone may die, but we all gotta go sometime. Right? It's much cheaper to pay funeral expenses (hell, burn victims are pre-cremated already), than to shell out all that money just to have extra firefighters loafing around the firehouse. When it comes right down to it, what's more valuable, life or dollars? Obviously, for most of the genius' above, money is far more important!
Fred Garvin January 13, 2014 at 05:22 PM
Now, in all seriousness, prudent people prepare for the unexpected. We are all familiar with insurance. We pay billions every year to protect our cars, homes, and lives against unforeseen tragedy. How is this any different? Doesn't it make sense to pay a few dollars up front, if there is even a remote chance it could save you millions in the end after fighting a wildfire that gets out of control?? Think before you comment people!
Just my opinion January 13, 2014 at 05:38 PM
SA - You are quite naive. Unions which represent all these firefighters require employers to pay overtime whenever they are staffed beyond their normal shift - regardless of the reason. You just can't "pay them the same". You have to pay them time and one half per shift at 24 hrs per shift. So a fireman working one extra overtime shift get's 36 hours pay - basically a weeks pay per 24 hour shift - and yes, half that time they are sleeping. The waking hours are either in front of a TV, cooking, or polishing a fire truck (except when they are actually fighting a real fire - a very rare occurrence - 85% of all calls are paramedic rescues - not fires).
ChrisG January 13, 2014 at 08:47 PM
@fred, the comment was that these folks should be on call. They are close enough to respond without being at the fire station. Big winds today!
Fred Garvin January 14, 2014 at 01:10 AM
@ChrisG, the point is that in these high winds, seconds really count. A small 1/2 acre grass fire can spread to 10 acres in 10 mins with the Santa Ana's blowing. Just how long do you think it will take to mobilize additional firefighters from home, even if they were sitting in their turnouts next to the phone? Two firemen live on my street. One works in O.C. and the other works in San Diego. Both have a minimum one hour drive. Paying them to be at the station saves time, and time saves lives.
ChrisG January 14, 2014 at 09:16 AM
@fred, ok, I didn't realize they were able to live so far away from where they work. Where I grew up firemen were required to live within the city limits. I assumed the same out here.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Fred - I call B.S. on that. That bogus argument applies to every high fire scenario. If they are paid to be there for fire watch - they should be out in the field, actively patrolling high fire areas with their equipment already with them. It's called work. Perhaps by being there they could even impact and shrink the opportunities for arsonists if they did this. After all, their whole argument is regarding wild land fires - nothing else. Why not also use drones? Just staying in the station playing Xbox at time and one half is ludicrous. I don't want my tax dollars going to that (Yes property taxes do fund fire service - among other sources). You must not realize every fireman's dream is to get called away for two weeks to a distant wildfire. They get time and one half for 24/7 for two or more weeks straight. I've seen them earn several months extra pay for one fire. Kinda waste of money don't you think? Wild land fires existed (lighting strikes etc). long before man. It's part of nature.
Fred Garvin January 14, 2014 at 01:44 PM
@ChrisG, no problem. A large portion of rural America still depends on volunteer, part-time, and seasonal firefighters. Obviously, these areas do require people to live & work locally and in many instances drop whatever they are doing to respond to an alarm, because the home they save may be their own. Most of SoCal is too densely populated to support this type of system. Hence, we have mostly full-time paid firefighters with no residency restrictions.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 02:04 PM
This is because firemen cannot afford to live in many of the communities they work in (Malibu, Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, etc.). There is no legal way to force people to live in any community (except prison or jail). Same for cops too.
Fred Garvin January 14, 2014 at 02:21 PM
JMO, As a fellow tax payer, I can sympathize with the idea that our tax dollars might be spent to pay someone to loaf or play games. But, I hate to burst your bubble. Most of the time when extra crews are brought in on OT, they earn their keep. Chiefs and Captains take full advantage of the extra help to do overdue station chores such as inspection and maintenance of all equipment and fire apparatus. Things are inventoried, cleaned, and the whole station gets a coat of wax. As far as every firefighters dream of working a two-week wild fire, you've simply lost your mind. It's hot hard-ass work, not to mention life threatening! (Or, do you forget how many firefighters were lost in AZ last summer?!) Besides all that, a small portion is ever paid in overtime. Many agencies require you to take comp-time instead. Try working a fire line for a while before you go making such assumptions.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 02:32 PM
I don't worship firefighters quite the way you do, but Yes I appreciate their hard work when they are engaged in it, and they absolutely can save property and lives - no dispute there. My problem is that their system (hours and overtime practices) make them some of the highest paid municipal and county workers (due to their overtime) when it is abused. I'm only talking about the abuses like fireman earning 200,00 - 385,000 (news accounts) due to overtime. That is a waste of money. They need to manage their staffing better. I do not doubt the danger of any public safety job (fireman or police) so don't even go there. You know nothing of what I did for a living. Now, let's compare what we pay our combat soldiers to what we pay firefighters. Which do you think is more dangerous? All I want is responsibility. As far as paying them to wash and clean at time and one half. Did you really think that one through? That is ludicrous. Hire a janitor. Oh, one more thing, they also collect those wildfire T-Shirts as bragging rights. Bet you have a couple don't you.
Justice For All January 14, 2014 at 02:45 PM
JMO -- I've seen some recent articles about guys making more money than their respective Chiefs. Every station has one. These guys literally live at work. I don't know what they spend the extra money on because they never have anything to show for it. But, that is just the norm. The press gets hold of this info and makes taxpayers think that the whole department is robbing the general fund. These are flukes.
Fred Garvin January 14, 2014 at 02:47 PM
JMO, No shirts for me. My son was the firefighter in the family, until he was killed fighting an arson blaze 6 1/2 years ago.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Fred - Sorry to hear that. He was obviously a hero. I'm not talking about the dedicated heroes like your son. I'm talking about the guys who game the system. May your son rest in peace.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 03:17 PM
Justice for All - those are the guys I'm talking about. That's gaming the system. I'm not talking about the rest of the guys. i have firefighters in my family too (like Fred). I'll tell you something else - hot shots work harder than the muni-guys and get paid a lot less.
Jeff Kleiner January 14, 2014 at 04:21 PM
Everywhere people "game" the system JMO. The right thing to do is weed those people out. The requirement of a firefighter or policeman to be away from their families means they are on duty, whether sitting at the firehouse or engaging fighting a fire or standing at a DUI Checkpoint. The real reason some of you continue to hate on public employees is that they are unionized. Unions tend to vote Democratic and all you conservative Tea Party haters cannot stand them making a living wage. Why don't you hate on the Republicans running the cities and county who sign lucrative public employee contracts. Start there, not the guys out there protecting your conservative right wing back sides.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 07:26 PM
Jeff - unions are controlled by democrats. Get your facts straight. I don't dislike police or fire employees. They are all necessary. My comments were about those who "game" the system and make ludicrous overtime. That is a management issue in reality. They need to mind the store better. That's all.
Jeff Kleiner January 14, 2014 at 07:47 PM
jmo.....Unions are labor which is the backbone of the Democratic Party HATED by Confederate Tea Party Republicans. JMO......where do you work??? Does anyone game of system.....of course. The difference is they NEVER EVER put their lives on the line for me and you. The blame should be on the Republican politicians in the County and Cites who negotiate the contracts and budgets. No one wants to be cheated, but "gaming" the system happens in every job category in the US, in every Public entitlement program. It does not take away the value of either the Public employee nor the Entitlement program.
Jeff Kleiner January 14, 2014 at 07:51 PM
Fred, I also compliment the bravery and sacrifice of you and your family.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 08:03 PM
Jeff- I agree. I don't resent cops or fireman. Most of them are in fact heroes, and some of them are unfortunately taken by work related dangerous tragedies, like Fred's son. God bless their souls. They are in large measure dedicated public servants. Every once in awhile, bad ones get in there though and they need to be removed. The police and fireman deserve the pay they get as well, but when one of them goes over the top and earns ridiculous amounts of money based on scamming overtime - they need to be called out by the others. It makes them all look bad. Wasting budgets is a bad practice in any industry. Good management oversight should correct these anomalies.
Justice For All January 14, 2014 at 10:00 PM
I'm not quite sure I understand this "gaming" term that's being tossed around. There are clearly a very few number of public servants who avail themselves to the overtime "gravy train." These folks may be greedy but they obviously aren't abusing anything or anyone but themselves. It demonstrates that a lot of workers value their time off and are willing to give up overtime work to the department "whore." ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is managed and unavoidable overtime that would have to be payed out regardless of the recipient. It is built into every agency's budget. City managers find it much cheaper to pay overtime, rather than hire extra personnel and absorb all the other associated costs. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I realize to the cursory observer, that this looks like some type of irresponsibility must be involved, but it's been a fiscally sound approach to ultimately lower costs of operation.
Just my opinion January 14, 2014 at 10:09 PM
It is when it is used with responsibility. Extraordinarily long shifts are not safe to the employee or fair to the public who gets an overtired zombie as a first-respond-er. Ultimately, overtime is never a substitute for lack of staff. that's a City Manager B.S. excuse not to hire sufficient staff in the first place. People need time off to regenerate. It is both unwise and unsafe for people to work countless hours so they can stuff their pockets with money. Yes - the use of some overtime will always be necessary due to vacations, sick use, etc. as well as special events and emergencies. I'm talking about the self schedulers who abuse it. How bout taking all your regular shifts off and then working time and half to earn them back on your days off. The employee works the same hours but comes out ahead in hours earned or pay if taken....that's a ripoff to me.


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