Fire officials say planning saved lives

LOS ANGELES – After being overwhelmed a month ago, state officials positioned hundreds of firefighters, trucks and planes at strategic staging areas in a bigger-than-usual mobilization that probably saved homes and lives when a wildfire broke out in Malibu over Thanksgiving weekend.

Fifty-three homes were lost, but officials said it could have been worse if not for the preparations and a lucky break in the weather.

“All the elements were there for something really bad and catastrophic to happen. We wanted to be better safe than sorry,” said Michael Richwine, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Hundreds of firefighters were dispatched to locations across Southern California, with big concentrations in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

By Thanksgiving Day, the forestry department had more than 3,000 additional firefighters in place on 400 engines, 89 hand crews and 28 bulldozer crews, Richwine said.

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