Drought Intensifies Wildfire Season
It is dry in the foothills and southern California as during a typical July or August, the peak of the fire season. Even in a region used to wildfires, this year appears poised to be especially destructive. California is facing its third dry year; thirsty grasses, parched brush and trees are more susceptible to burn, so fuel is ready.
Today, fire and state emergency managers gathered at CAL FIRE’s Aviation Management Unit located at McClellan Air Force Base to kick off Wildfire Awareness Week with the goal of raising public awareness of wildfires and promoting actions that reduce the risk to homes and communities.
“The historic drought that is upon us makes Wildfire Preparedness more critical than ever,’ said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “There’s a very high likelihood of well-above-normal fires and perhaps a chance of longer-lasting fires, which require more resources in order to fight them.”
So far this year, California has already experienced more wildfire activity than normal. As of April 26th, the state has recorded more than 1,100 fires; that’s more than double the average of the previous five years. Even before this year’s drought, forest officials were reporting a longer fire season and more catastrophic mega-fires in California and other western states. More than half of California’s worst fires in recorded history have occurred since 2002.
“The job that the first responders have is difficult,” said State Fire and Rescue Chief Kim Zagaris. “Our agency, along with CAL FIRE as well as local and federal agencies, has taken proactive measures to prepare for intense wildfires this year with exceptional amounts of dry fuel, but it’s also important that individuals prepare, we expect individuals to do their part.”
Cal FIRE increased their staffing even before the fire season began and emergency partners like Cal OES, California National Guard, and the U.S. Forest Service are putting resources in place and preparing collectively to respond to any wildfire immediately and prevent them from spreading.
As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson.
Some people might think that there isn’t much they can do to protect from a wildfire, but there are many things that you can do now to become more fire adapted.
- Find out what you and your community should expect during a response.
- Conduct a risk assessment on your property with your local fire department.
- Create a plan to address issues in your property’s Defensible Space Zone, including: maintaining a noncombustible area around the perimeter of your home; managing vegetation along fences; clearing debris from decks and patios, eaves, and porches; selecting proper landscaping and plants; knowing the local ecology and fire history; moving radiant heat sources away from the home (i.e., wood piles, fuel tanks, sheds);thinning trees and ladder fuels around the home;
- Develop a personal and family preparedness plan.
- Support land management agencies by learning about wildfire risk reduction efforts, such as using prescribed fire to manage local landscapes.
- Contact the local planning/zoning office to find out if your home is in a high wildfire risk area and if there are specific local or county ordinances you should be following.
- If you have a homeowner association, work with them to identify regulations that incorporate proven preparedness landscaping, home design, and building material such as the recommendations from Living with Fire for the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Watch the important remarks from the kickoff press conference by Director Mark Ghilarducci and California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
For more information and resources for Wildfire protection visit: