California is so hot and dry that not even soaking rain can ease fall fire peril
Wildfire danger in Northern California is expected to rise dramatically this fall and winter as dry, windy weather increases the risk of wildfires.
The number of fires burning in the state is projected to climb from more than 500 to more than 800 by year’s end, making it likely that more than half the fires that blaze in California this year will be the kind that threaten homes and communities.
As California prepares to welcome its first major snowstorm of the year on Sunday, fires are a growing threat in the Sierra Nevada region, where the threat of extreme fire danger is growing as weather conditions worsen.
A new report shows that more than half of the fires that are burning now either threatened homes or threatened communities. (In 2017, more than two-thirds of California’s wildfires threatened homes or structures.) The new estimates, based on a random sampling of nearly 500 fires, are the most extensive and detailed of any fire danger study in the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“This report is one of the most comprehensive,” said Steve Vail, a fire ecologist and co-author of the report. “It is meant to show how fire danger is changing across the state.”
California’s fire danger, however, is not likely to rise dramatically next year, officials said. That is because the season will include a “winter,” in which the state normally is much drier, Vail said.
“In the middle of October we get a lot of rain and then in January and February people dry out and burn through all that vegetation,” he said. “We’ve got to get all that vegetation dried out before you get fire danger.”
Vail said the next fire danger report will not be based on the current report but on one that will be ready later in the fall.
For now, firefighters will be focused on putting out the fires already burning.
In the last two years, the number of fire departments in the state has nearly doubled, from