By Angela Musallam

ELK GROVE (CBS13) — The risk of wildfires in Northern California is higher than normal for this month according to National Weather Service.

With the Cosumnes Fire Department getting more firefighters over the next year, the department will have an easier time helping out.

In 2008, the department responded to just over 14,000 calls. In 2017, it’s expected to top 20,000 calls. It’s an increase in calls, but not in staff.

Fire Chief Mike Laughlin says his department has been understaffed for about a decade. He received a $3 million grant in September allowing him to refill eight firefighter positions.

More firefighters mean a different firefighting game plan during wildfire season. The staff increase should cut into overtime impacts. Five fire engines are normally dispatched to mutual aid calls, but in recent years the department has had to hold one back for daily calls.

“If we send an engine out of county, we have to hire people to backfill that engine,” he said.

Now, those firefighters will help offset overtime while bringing up staffing levels when firefighters are dispatched out of the county. They’re expected to arrive by March.

The firefighters will also be required to be paramedics and help with EMS calls that have jumped by 40 percent in recent years.

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