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Red flag warning has local fire officials on alert

Local fire officials are watching the weather conditions very carefully. The warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds can be a dangerous combination — especially right now.

“We’re about two months ahead of normal curing time for grasses. The wild land threat this year, is greater than it was last year and the year before, so we just have to make sure we’re cognizant of that and diligent and careful,” explained Montecito Fire Chief Chip Hickman.

Montecito Fire has called in extra staff, including hand crews to cut brush in the foothills. It has also activated the Montecito Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group, or Merrag. Members set up at trail heads in the area to talk to hikers.

“I was warned of the high fire danger. They asked me if I had water, and made sure I had my cell phone,” said hiker, Sean Stephan.

The volunteers also kept tabs on how many people head up the trails.

“If a fire does start, we have an idea of how many people are up there the fire department may have to rescue,” explained Merrag volunteer Mike McCaleb.

Most of the Merrag members live nearby, and they are aware of the potential danger.

“Wildfires are serious business,” said Merrag volunteer Tom Schleck.

Fire officials are also urging residents to prepare. They want you to clear a defensible space around your home, and to have an emergency plan in place.

The red flag conditions are expected to continue through Thursday.

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