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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Latest on Firefighting Efforts in Southern California

Aired October 27, 2003 - 09:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: For the very latest on firefighting efforts, we're joined by Jim Wright. He is the deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, And he joins us from Devore, California this morning.
Good morning, sir. Thanks for joining us.

CHIEF JIM WRIGHT. CALIF. DEPT. OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION: Good morning. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Give me a sense of the overall strategy at this point. You're looking at massive acreage burning, fronts on all ends. What's the strategy here?

WRIGHT: Overall, obviously, Southern California is under a siege of fire, and what we're doing is looking at the threats throughout Southern California. As you know, we have fires in Ventura County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego counties. And all of those incidents are creating a demand for resources.

And what we're doing, we're mobilizing fire protection resources from throughout California, mobilizing them down to Southern California, and deploying them to these fires where we need. Now all of the incidents are all competing for resources, obviously, as we've seen the fire behavior and the fire damage that's occurring.

But we're constantly monitoring the situations, and each fire, and deploying the resources as they become available. And it becomes a strategy of redeploying resources once they're released from one incident and moving them to other incidents as quickly as we can.

O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of those resources. How many firefighters are we talking about? How many other personnel involved, and over what kind of a space?

WRIGHT: Literally thousands of firefighters, just from all over California. Over 700 fire engines, and you know, numerous aerial resources are being deployed to fight these fires, and just thousands of support personnel, as well.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about what the weather forecast is looking like for you. We've been told that it doesn't look like it's going to be until Tuesday before the Santa Ana Winds will die down. Is that what you're hearing? And if so, then how do you deal with that? WRIGHT: Well, our predictive services are still telling us that we're still a good two to three days into Santa Ana Wind influence. And again, we continually monitor the weather and see the effects the weather is having on these fires.

One thing that we are concerned with, even with the Santa Anas subsiding, the fires here in the mountainous areas, especially the old fire, which is below an area that has been affected by bark beetle kill, where we have literally hundreds of thousands of dead trees, is that one thing with Santa Anas has been holding this fire down below those mountain communities where the dead trees are. And our concern is that as the Santa Anas subside, this fire could turn into a topography driven fire and race uphill and into the mountain communities.

So we're really concentrating a lot of fire suppression efforts on the northern perimeter of this old fire to keep it down out of the mountain communities of the San Bernardino mountains.

O'BRIEN: So in other words, what would be good news in some areas of the fire, the Santa Ana Winds sort of diminishing, would be bad news because of all the dead trees and fuel which would be in the path of the fire north?

WRIGHT: That's correct, and that's why we're really concentrating a lot of suppression action on that northern perimeter of this old fire, north of the city of San Bernardino.

O'BRIEN: Well, we have been looking at live pictures while you and I have been talking. It's very dramatic, really I have to say shocking.

Thanks for your time this morning, Chief Wright. We certainly appreciate it. Good luck to you.

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