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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall speaks at a press conference at the Olive Drive Fire Training Facility concerning the potential for wildland fires because of the extreme dry conditions in the state. The Kern County Fire Department has started preparing for the possibility of fires earlier than in normal years.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Backed up by firefighters, Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall holds a press conference to address the potential for wildland fires in this extremely dry year and how the KCFD is preparing.

Kern County's top fire official said the 2013 fire season never ended, and instead just rolled over into 2014.

Last month there were more than 300 wildland fires throughout the state, compared to last winter when there were none, Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall said at a Tuesday press conference.

"These are not normal conditions for California."

Marshall said the severe drought has the potential of causing large scale wildland fires through the rest of the winter.

"Even though we are having some rain now, we can be responding to a major wildfire at any moment," Marshall said at the conference, usually held in mid-May. Because of the drought, it was scheduled more than two months earlier.

For the fire season the department has hired an additional 100 seasonal wildland firefighters. A spokesman said there are about 530 fulltime Kern County firefighters.

To prevent property fires, the fire department recommends county residents remove all dead branches and brush piles.

Mechanical equipment like lawnmowers should be used before 10 a.m. when it's cooler and more humid to reduce the chance of a spark igniting a vegetation fire.

"I don't have a crystal ball to predict the fire season, but we want to be prepared and ready when that emergency occurs," Marshall said.

For monthly fire-prevention tips, visit www.readykern.com.