"Our initial attack aircraft and helicopters are strategically placed throughout the state, so no matter where a fire starts they are no more than 30 minutes away," said Lynn Tolmachoff, a spokesperson for Cal Fire. "If a fire gets larger, that's when you'll see us call in very large air tankers, such as the DC-7, the C-130s and that sort of thing."
There's also a new robotic fire hydrant being tested in California's Orange County to help water-dropping helicopters on blazes in remote areas. It allows helicopters to fill up with more than 2,000 gallons of water in less than a minute from remotely activated snorkel sites, eliminates the need for ground personnel to control water values and saves travel time to reservoirs.
Years of drought and bark beetle destruction has left an estimated 129 million dead trees in California and the threat of new devastating wildfires. There's a buildup of brush and other fuels that adds to the risk in many regions of the state.
Earlier this month, several brush fires in Southern California forced thousands of residents in the Laguna Beach and Alison Viejo areas to be evacuated. There also was a brush fire last week in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles County that led to evacuations and threatened multimillion-dollar homes.
Last year, California experienced its largest and costliest fire season in recorded history, according to Cal Fire. There were 9,133 fires statewide that charred more than 1.38 million acres, or the equivalent of some 2,156 square miles. Nearly 10,000 structures were destroyed, and insurance industry estimates put the economic damage at more than $13 billion.
The Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties last December ranks as the largest fire in recorded California history. The fire destroyed more than 1,000 structures, killed two people and cost the state an estimated $175 million to fight.
Northern California's wine country fires in October caused 44 fatalities and destroyed entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for this weekend for parts of the same region, including portions of Napa and Sonoma counties, due to fire danger caused by gusty winds, low humidity and high temperatures. Cal Fire announced Saturday morning it brought in additional aviation assets to bolster its response to new blazes.
State and local firefighters were battling at least six wildfires in Northern California on Saturday afternoon, including the 900-acre Lane fire in Tehama County that led to forced evacuations. Triple-digit temperatures in the fire zone was leaving firefighters to battle heat exhaustion as well as flames.