A warning about the summer fire season

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The summer fire season is upon us, and it’s important to be hyper-aware of how we deal with fire as we’re out and about. That’s no more important than in California, where just eight months ago the Camp Fire consumed the Northern California town of Paradise and was pronounced the deadliest wildfire in state history.

The state is facing the potential in the coming months for more death and destruction.


Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley professor of fire science, says the heavy rains of February and March have left California grasslands with perhaps twice as much burnable fuel as this time a year ago.

U.S. Forest Service photo by Mike McMillan under Creative Commons 2.0.

“Most of the time, you’d have one ton of dry mass per acre, and right now it’s about double that,” Stephens, who has spent a quarter century in Berkeley working on fire behavior, fire ecology and forest policy, says. “I would expect grassland fires to be more intense and move around more quickly because of that.”

“All that dry grassland will be responsive to sparks and flying burning embers. The fuel load will increase flame lengths. Once the grasslands start to burn, they could produce more embers themselves, since they have higher fuel loads.”

Wildfire season in California has typically run from midsummer through late autumn, although the last two seasons have stretched that.

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BuzzElectric

I live in Chico, CA just down the hill from Paradise and the Camp fire. We seem to have had a lot more fires in Northern California already but it also seems that the fire departments are throwing everything they have at the beginning of the fires and thus keeping them small. California has also purchased a fleet of large air tankers to help. I know that the local Cal Fire helitac base just north of here has been totally rebuilt and has extra helicopters. I think one of them is some sort of Black Hawk type but don’t quote me. Also PG&E has installed more cameras and new remote weather stations. They have also turned off the power once already since they felt the conditions were unsafe. They then go out and survey all of their lines before they are reenergized. The new town of Paradise has completed 2 homes. It’s going to take a long time. Paradise Strong!

Ran

Fire Season in California is “year-round”. Not seasonal as some mention, due to increased population in the wildland/Urban interface, along with drought conditions, aged fuels, lack of water, and lack of prescribed fire burning capabilities (mostly red-tape!). Hopefully this will change soon!