California readies to fight wildfires 365 days a year

ESCONDIDO, California - California has fought 1,400 wildfires so far this year, double what the state would normally expect.

Two thousand firefighters are now on the front lines in San Diego Country. Hundreds had been pre-positioned based on the forecast of high winds and extreme heat.

Mike Mohler is a fire captain with Cal Fire, the state's firefighting agency.

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Firefighters have battled 1,400 wildfires so far this year
CBS News

Has fighting fires become an offensive, not defensive, game?

"That's exactly what it is," Mohler said. "It is an offensive game. We need to plan ahead. It's not reactive. We're proactive."

In the past two weeks Cal Fire called up an additional 25 engines and 100 firefighters. They were moved from Central and Northern California down to Southern California.

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California predicts it will spend $240,000 million this year fighting wildfires
CBS News

Was there a discernible different outcome because of that?

"Absolutely," Mohler said. "It's still destruction, but we were able to hit it faster and harder."

Less than three hours after the San Marcos blaze broke out, a DC 10 tanker was dropping 12,000 gallons of flame retardant. It had been loaded, fueled and was waiting on a runway about 100 miles away. Twenty-two military water-dropping helicopters flew in from nearby Camp Pendleton. The aircraft do not actually put out fire but they slow down the flames so ground crews can move in and extinguish them.

"We have to be ready for wildfire anywhere in the state of California 365 days a year," Mohler said.

The state just hired 300 new firefighters. They started on Monday and many of them are already here fighting these fires.

Cal Fire expects to spend $240,000 million this year fighting wildfires.

  • Ben Tracy

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