Weather service changes fire warning system

The National Weather Service today changed its criteria for red flag warnings by putting more emphasis on strong winds and less emphasis on low humidity.

The change should lead to fewer fire danger warnings and will probably save taxpayer money, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Savings would be realized, because some firefighting agencies beef up staffing and pre-position fire engines based largely on NWS red flag warnings, the Union-Tribune reported.

“I think in the past, we’ve overreacted,” Bruce Risher of the U.S. Forest Service told the newspaper. “I think we’ve come to an agreement for all the parties that is much more realistic.”

A total of 36 red flag warnings were issued in 2009 in the NWS region that includes San Diego, Orange and parts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. In 2008, there were 137 red flag warnings and 96 the year before that.

The last major wildfire in San Diego County was in 2007.