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.
“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.