I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain… but the worst is yet to come

By Chief Sam DiGiovanna

On Saturday 9/10/2022 I read the update of the Fairview Fire by Chief Eddie Sell Chief of the Hemet Fire Dept and President of our California Firefighters’ Association. The Update: “The rain was truly an amazing gift that helped slow the forward progress, and allowed our firefighters to make great progress in containing this large wildfire in the Hemet Valley/Riverside County. The fire now stands at 28,307 acres, 40% contained, with 2,241 personnel on the fire. Rain or shine our firefighters continue to work hard to mitigate any threats to our communities.”

The first thing that came to mind was this song by James Taylor: https://lnkd.in/gw7YNJzd

Within one day personnel are fighting fire under hot sunny skies consuming thousands of acres, taking lives and structures, then less than 24 hours later, transitioning to flashflood warnings while still fighting fire. Hemet Fire Chief Eddie Sell and the members of the Hemet Fire Department, along with Cal Fire and cooperating mutual aid agencies did (and are doing) a hell of a job standing their ground with this fire under the most adverse conditions. The compounding problem is the additional multiple wildfires burning throughout the state and other Western states. Personnel and resources are getting stretched. We will see this more in weeks/months to come.

In the past several months we have seen fires consume thousands of acres, claiming lives and destroying homes. But the worst is yet to come. As we know fire season is year-round however, we are turning the corner and heading into the most dangerous time and height of fire season with our Santa Ana and Diablo winds.

Several years ago, I wrote this article “You Say That Every Yearhttps://lnkd.in/gBuahUUW and for the past several years it has come true. So, I’m going to say it again, “this will be the worst fire season we’ve seen in history.”

We have come a long way in fighting wildfires with new advanced technology, training, mutual aid agreements in mutual threat zones and of course newer aircraft with larger payloads with nighttime vision capabilities for flying night operations. Of course, the “Quick Reaction Force” https://lnkd.in/gcK4YAYq now in place is a huge asset in Southern California as private utility companies are joining the fight. But we are still being outgunned by wildfires moving at an incredible rate of spread.

Where am I going with this? You are all smarter than I am, and I am confident you are already have your agency’s plans in place. But “the worst is yet to come.” So make sure you are up to date and trained in your agency’s policies because there is “hidden value” in them https://lnkd.in/gFiPh_rE and most importantly we truly are sitting on a powder keg ready to let go https://lnkd.in/gJqMNG5j

Please be safe, look out for one another and remember prayer - as this will be our biggest and best resource!

Sam DiGiovanna is a 40-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department, and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif. He also is a consultant for Lexipol Fire Services.