California prepares to battle flare-ups

Associated Press
Published November 3, 2007

SAN DIEGO - Applying lessons learned just a week ago, Southern California is lining up fire crews and aircraft to get a jump on wildfires if the hot, dry Santa Ana winds expected to return this weekend cause major flare-ups.

None of more than two dozen air tankers and military helicopters that arrived from around the country to fight last month's blazes are returning to their home bases, said Francis Solich, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "If anything breaks loose, they'll be here," Solich said Friday.

Also Friday, Marines began training with state firefighters at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, and will be available to join firefighting efforts this weekend if needed.

"We are training them on how to work in our air space. The Marines are great pilots, but they don't have any experience in how we fight fires," said CDF Capt. Matt Streck.

When more than 15 fires began breaking out across Southern California two weeks ago, it took more than 24 hours for nearly two dozen firefighting helicopters to get into the air.

By the time aircraft began arriving in large numbers, the winds were gusting at 100 mph or more in some areas, making it too dangerous to use them for firefighting.

IRS warns of donation scam

People should be on the lookout for a new e-mail scam soliciting donations to California wildfire victims in the name of the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. government, the IRS said Friday. It said the bogus e-mails appear to be a "phishing scheme" that tries to trick recipients into revealing personal and financial information. People "should avoid opening any attachments or clicking on any links until they can verify the e-mail's legitimacy," Richard Spires, IRS deputy commissioner for operations support, said in a statement. Those who receive the scam e-mail can forward it to phishing@irs.gov using instructions found in "how to protect yourself from suspicious e-mails or phishing schemes" on the genuine IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.