SOLANO COUNTY (CBS13) – Retired firefighter Frank Moore has been around fires for decades. With the Campo Fire still burning in Calaveras County and widespread drought conditions, he worries we’re in a race against the clock with Cal Fire still in the middle of its hiring season.
“If it’s dried out like it’s doing right now, we are going to have a lot of fires,” he saidREAD MORE: Who Is Mark Lavea, Suspect Killed In San Andreas Hostage Situation?
Numbers from CAL FIRE show an increase in more than 620 fires compared to this time last year. And just as the dangerous peak of fire season approaches, California is lacking in boots on the ground.
“Our inmate hand crew numbers are down from our peaks and years in the past,” said Robert Foxworthy with CAL FIRE.
CBS13 learned that part of the reason for the drop in inmate crews is due to the pandemic.
Foxworthy says, right now, there’s a focus on hiring roughly 1,400 firefighters following funding approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Foxworthy says a large number of them will be going to hand crews.
Drier and warmer than usual – that’s the prediction for Northern California through at least July.READ MORE: Trap, Tag, Haze: New Efforts To Get Bears To Behave In Tahoe Area
“I would say there is that possibility that we could start seeing crews brought on even earlier than we are now,” Foxworthy said.
Helen Voronin was forced out of her home last year after a wildfire tore through Solano County. Her home survived.
“And I don’t wish to do it again, it was very frightening,” she said.
As conditions change, she’s now more prepared than ever.
“It just never occurred to me, and now you really think about it and are more careful,” she said.MORE NEWS: Yuba City Neighborhood 'Traumatized' After High Speed Drivers Repeatedly Crash Into Homes
Cal Fire said it won’t experience shortages as peak staffing will be available during peak fire season. Its helitack firefighter teams are fully staffed ahead of and ready to go by May.