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Firefighting Agencies Forced To Prioritize Assets During Busy California Wildfire Season

VALLEJO (CBS SF) -- When California wildfires overwhelm firefighting resources, the National Forest Service is faced with deciding where the most important battles must be fought, and what firefighters will work to save.

There are only so many bulldozers, aircraft, and firefighters available to fight wildfires around the state.  Chris Schow is the man who decides where to send those resources, and lately, he's been very busy.

"Right before coming out to visit with you, I was getting messages about lightning in the Angeles National Forest," Acting Deputy Director for Fire and Aviation in the Pacific Southwest for the National Forest Service Schow told KPIX 5's Don Ford.

Schow leads a team of agencies, including Cal Fire and the Pentagon in prioritizing every morning who gets what based on the threat level.

"When either our firefighters, or the public are physically threatened by fire, that is one of the, that is the highest priority.  Property comes next.  Our natural resources and infrastructure follow after that," Schow said.

That means a fire in rugged terrain wilderness, while still being attacked vigorously, will not get the same resources as a fire closing in on a community.

Firefighters do their best, but residents can "make their jobs easier by creating that defensible space," Schow said.

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