AUBURN (CBS13) — Under red flag conditions this weekend, the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) is trying a new approach to stay out in front of area wildfires.

A 22-member strike team made up of firefighters from multiple area departments was assembled in Auburn Saturday, strategically placed for quicker response times.

“It’s here for a weighted response,” said Battalion Chief Jim Edmiston with Sacramento City Fire Department. “So hopefully if there is a wildland fire that starts, we can nip in the bud and try and get it before it becomes a major campaign fire,” he said.

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Five yellow-green state fire engines were parked at Station #1 for most of the day as crews waited at the ready for a call.

“We can go up highway 80 towards the Tahoe area. We can go 49 towards Placerville” Edmiston said.

Edmiston says a longer fire season and faster moving fires are the new normal in California, so it’s time to look at new ways to stay ahead of the flames.

“We’re kind of learning more and evolving with the fires, realizing the way that we’ve always done it traditionally, we have to change with the times,” he said.

Edmiston says strike team members come from departments as far away as Manteca and Lathrop.

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“We all carry the same radios so we’re able to talk to each other. So there’s a lot of coordination ahead of time” he said.

Also leading the strike team is Captain John Graf from Sac Metro Fire.

“We have safety bulletins and safety briefings each day that we go out,” Graf said.

The strike team he says is ever mindful of the dangers on the fire line.

“It’s been a tragic fire season so we talked about that this morning.”

Captain Graf acknowledges it’s their job to fight fires protecting people and property, but while doing so safety for firefighters is priority number one.

“It’s Paramount that we keep safety priority number one,” he said. “So Chief Edmiston and I are going to see to the fact that all 22 that showed up here today are going to arrive home safely at the end of our assignment,” he said.

The strike team worked a 12-hour shift Saturday. Chief Graf said they would reassess and check conditions overnight to determine if they needed to reassemble for the remainder of the weekend.


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