Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Friday that he will call up an additional 2,000 California National Guard troops over the next several months to fight wildfires as the state faces an arduous fire season.
President Bush, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit California on Thursday to receive a wildfire update.
The steep increase in Guard troops comes as nearly 20,000 firefighting personnel work overtime to contain blazes caused by lightning strikes over the last three weeks. The state has had 1,781 fires since June 20, with 322 fires remaining active, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fires have burned 752,944 acres.
“The fire season as we have known it in California is pretty much over,” Schwarzenegger said Friday during a news conference in Los Angeles to announce a new anti-smoking campaign. “We used to have a fire season that goes from the end of summer throughout the fall, but now we have a fire season all year around. So we need the extra manpower and also the extra equipment.”
Near-collision reported at JFK
Two airborne planes – one landing and the other taking off – came within a half-mile of colliding at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday in the second such incident at the airport in a week, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The FAA moved quickly to change takeoff and landing procedures at JFK on perpendicular runways – the kind of runways involved in both incidents.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said Delta Flight 123 was arriving at the airport Friday when the pilot decided to abort his landing and execute a “go-around” – a routine procedure often used during heavy congestion.
That caused the Delta flight to intersect with the flight path of Comair Flight 1520, a regional jet that was taking off on another runway.
The FAA ordered new procedures Friday afternoon to change the way takeoffs and landings on perpendicular runways are sequenced, Brown said in an interview with the Associated Press.