FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Fresno firefighters are facing a record number of fires in record-breaking temperatures, as the city sees the first heatwave of the year.
Helmet camera video released Tuesday showed flames tear through an abandoned building as thick smoke poured out. The three-alarm fire happened just after 12:00 p.m. at Inyo and H street on Monday, on the first triple-digit day of the year.
“Every morning at about 8 a.m. our dispatch comes over the tones in every fire station and gives an update on the weather, actually tells everybody if we are in heat stress protocols,” Shane Brown with the Fresno Fire Department said.
This means more firefighters respond to certain calls to cycle through work and rest, preventing heat-related injuries.
But personnel are already stretched thin and calls are skyrocketing, with fires up nearly 45% this year over last.
Brown said 2020 was the first year on record with more than 500 fires in a single month and so far this year every month has had more than 500 fires.
“June is going to be super hot, 4th of July is always explosive. You get the fireworks in the mix it’s always a bad combination with the dry vegetation. We’re in a really bad drought. I mean it’s just all the stars are aligning for a busy summer for Fresno Fire.”
But some relief is on the way. The city recently gave the green light to offer 20 spots in a July fire academy to people who meet a strict criteria. Then, after a federal grant goes through, two more drill schools are planned.
The goal is to bring on 60 new firefighters in total, which would beef up daily staffing from 81 to 95.
“In a perfect world we’d want 130 to 140 daily to protect a city this size adequately. But you know, we’re moving in the right direction,” Brown said.