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In Wake of Springs Fire, Santa Barbara County Officials Urge Vigilance

Dryness coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures could bring large wildfires this summer, beginning as early as June

With the roaring blaze of the Camarillo Springs Fire still fresh on their minds, a host of Santa Barbara County fire officials spoke with the media Wednesday about the importance of being ready and vigilant for wildfire.

Santa Barbara County has seen only 55 percent of the rain expected this year, and that dryness coupled with higher temperatures than normal could mean large fires this summer, beginning as early as June, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mike Dyer.

Only 40 to 60 percent of normal amounts of rain have been seen statewide, so fire will continue to be a problem in the coming months.

The Camarillo Springs Fire swept through more than 28,000 acres as of Wednesday and was 95 percent contained as firefighters worked to mop up in Ventura County. Mutual aid agreements meant that many other fire districts, including those in Santa Barbara County, sent resources and crews to help with the blaze.

“We’re ready to work shoulder to shoulder,” CalFire Chief Robert Lewin said.

Santa Barbara City Fire Department Chief Pat McElroy said his department sent eight firefighters to the Springs Fire, while being mindful of keeping staffing levels full in Santa Barbara and ready to respond to any emergency within its jurisdiction.

“We’re ready on a daily basis,” he said.

Lompoc Fire Chief Kurt Latipow stressed the “Ready, Set, Go” steps that residents should take to prepare for the possibility of a large fire.

He said being ready with defensible space, being set to go immediately if told to evacuate by officials and leaving early are key.

“Get out and let us get in and protect your home,” Latipow said.

He also said that billions of dollars in damage were saved in the Springs Fire because homeowners had created defensible space beforehand.

As for evacuating, “when you start to get that funny feeling, it’s time to go,” Santa Maria Fire Chief Dan Orr said, adding that residents should also think ahead of time what to do with their animals in case of fire.

Dyer said there are pockets of Santa Barbara County that haven’t burned in 100 years, and that there are very dry fuels in the area right now.

“This whole county at one time or another has burned,” he said, “and it’s ready to burn again.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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