Dry Winter has Cal Fire on Early Hiring Blitz

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Cal Fire Captain Andy Gregerson has been answering questions about protecting the Sierra foothills for nearly 20 years.

He helped battle the American Fire last August and the Forty-Nine Fire in September 2009 – both a common sight for summer, but not in winter.

“Not in January. Have I ever seen it this dry,” Cpt. Gregerson said.

The National Weather Service even issued a Red Flag Warning — also common in the summer and rare in the winter — for the Sierra foothills. It lasts through Friday morning.

“[In] southern California, you would be more likely to see [a Red Flag Warning]. In northern California, it does not normally happen,” Cal Fire Spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said Tuesday.

With no rain in the forecast, Cal Fire beefed up staff with 25 extra engines along with more crews.

“It does not scare me but it definitely keeps us up on our toes, thinking we are still going to have to deal with the fires,” Gregerson said.

Already, crews are battling flames from southern California to the Delta, where fires erupted Tuesday.

It is those scenes that have pushed Cal Fire to an early hiring blitz.

The department will bring in 125 new recruits as soon as possible, something that would otherwise be seen at the start of fire season in spring.

“You just have to be very careful. They are predicting it is going to be in that zone, but the winds can do what they want. That is Mother Nature,” Tolmachoff said.

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