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Fire prevention volunteers on patrol

There are 1200 volunteers throughout the state, serving as extra eyes and ears for Cal Fire.
(Justin Willis Reporting)

Fire prevention volunteers are hitting the backroads, trying to keep the fire season from getting any worse for firefighters.

The group is known as the VIPs or Volunteers In fire Prevention and they serve as extra eyes and ears for Cal Fire.

There are 1200 of these volunteers across the state. 

Without them keeping an eye on things, we might have seen even bigger fires than the Carstens Fire in Mariposa, or even more of the arson fires in Yosemite Lakes Park.

Cal Fire is trying to prevent more wildfires through the use of the VIPs.

The volunteers weave through thousands of miles of back roads in the foothill and mountain areas, looking for anything that could be a problem for firefighters: suspicious cars parked on the side of the road, or homes with not enough defensible clearance.

The volunteers just wrapped up their annual red flag patrol for the 4th of July. 

Volunteer Simon Elman said, "Just eyes and ears for Cal Fire. There's a lot of engine crews on duty, but not enough to cover the thousands of miles we have in the mountain area. So we act as extra eyes and ears." 

In between patrols, the VIPs visit schools and community events, teaching the importance of fire safety.

Volunteer Cathy Schoch said, "Smoky's number one rule: Do no play with fire. So matches, liters... they seem them outside, always report it to an adult." 

It's just part of what volunteers like Cathy and Simon do to save homes and lives. 

There are 150 local volunteers with this program, but they can always use more eyes and ears. 

Click the related link to find out how you can get involved.
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