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SANTA CLARITA FINDS VOLUNTEERS FOR FIRE FIGHT; 120 TO KEEP EYES PEELED AS PERIOD OF DANGER NEARS.

Byline: Stacy Brown Daily News Staff Writer

As the autumn brush-fire season approaches, a contingent of volunteers will be on watch for the first signs of potential disaster.

More than 120 volunteers are taking part in the city's Fire Watch Team program, coordinated with the help of Los Angeles County's Fire and Sheriff's departments.

The official duties of several teams formed for the program will begin Friday. The organization was established this summer to help prevent brush fires and log any suspicious activities in fire-prone areas.

``We just want people to know you can't mess around here in Santa Clarita,'' said Donna Nuzzi of the city of Santa Clarita's Emergency Preparedness Division.

The Fire Watch Teams, which have been training throughout the summer, are expected to play an important role in protecting lives and property during the upcoming fire season, which typically begins in October and continues sometimes through the spring, Nuzzi said.

When there are reports of Santa Ana winds and other ``red flag'' conditions, volunteers will go out on special patrols. Nuzzi said teams will be patrolling areas throughout the valley in cars, trucks and other vehicles at all times.

The teams will be equipped with two-way radios, cellular phones and log books.

``Each team will maintain radio contact with the sheriff's station at all times. They note and log all unattended vehicles and suspicious activity,'' Nuzzi said. If a fire is spotted, its location will be reported and crews dispatched.

The swift reporting of a fire is crucial in fighting it, said Capt. Joe Romero of Castaic's Station 149.

``The faster it's reported, the faster we get there,'' he said. ``And with the advent of cell phones, we get a lot of help from the community. It used to be that people would have to drive to a call box and if that wasn't working they'd have to get off at the nearest off-ramp and find a phone,'' Romero said.

A Valencia resident, Romero said it is important that residents report any suspected hazard or suspicious behavior.

``We would rather respond to a false alarm than not respond to a real fire. We get a lot of phone calls and we really rely heavily on the public,'' he said.

Nuzzi said that's been the key to developing the Fire Watch program and other volunteer organizations throughout the area.

``This is a proactive valley, the community is volunteer-oriented and these patrol volunteers are the eyes and ears of both the fire and sheriff station,'' Nuzzi said.

Fire officials said the hot and dry weather is ideal for brush fires, and personnel has been beefed up as a result.

``Because conditions are as such, we have more camp crews, chiefs, helicopters and men at our disposal,'' said Capt. Don Schwaiger of Station 107 in Canyon Country.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 17, 1997
Words:467
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