Fire In Season

May 24, 2016

fires12410_468x600Fog and clouds together again this Tuesday morning on California’s north coast, creating a moist, chilly environment.
Forecasts for the next 10 days shows it nearly-dry, the NWS expecting ‘Mostly Sunny‘ conditions for awhile.
A marine-layer don’t count…

Also not really counting despite its excellence, was our past rainy season, especially in the drought category of wildfires.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented on California’s upcoming fire season (SFGate): ‘“You’ve got 40 million dead trees. You’ve got 40 million opportunities for fire. You’re looking at a very serious situation.”

One good season can’t offset four-straight years of way-under rainfall, and with global temperatures going upward…

(Illustration: ‘Witch Creek Fire,’ near San Diego, October 2007, found here).

Yet the El Niño-influenced rainfall did wet the state — in the first four months of 2016, Cal Fire reported ‘only’ 609 wildfires, compared to 917 at the same time last year. And last year, through the end of April, wildfires had already scorched more than 9,200 acres — 15 times the number of acres burned so far this year.

Four straight dry winters before this one wiped out sugar pines, cedars and oaks throughout the Sierra and other mountains in California
Further details on the coming fire season

  • The latest report from the National Interagency Fire Center, a collective of firefighting agencies, shows high fire potential for Southern California, the southern and central Sierra, and the foothills of the Sacramento Valley through the forecasting period of July and August.
  • The Agriculture Department, which oversees the U.S. Forest Service and that agency’s large firefighting force, has committed $30 million to California.
    That will help pay for clearing dead trees along roads, outside rural communities and near campgrounds, where fire danger is greatest, Vilsack said.
  • Meanwhile, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, which manages the state’s firefighting crews, has ramped up staffing earlier in the season for the second year in a row.
    Extra firefighters tended engines statewide all through winter, and seasonal hiring accelerated in February.

And ready:

“Now they’re ready to go,” said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. “We’re already starting to see the grass in the central Sierra (and) the Central Coast all the way down to Southern California begin to brown.”

“No level of rain is going to bring the dead trees back,” Berlant said.
“We’re talking trees that are decades old that are now dead. Those larger trees are going to burn a lot hotter and a lot faster. We’re talking huge trees in mass quantity surrounding homes.”

Added extra for 2016:

  • Although the Forest Service counts 40 million dead trees, about 29 million of which died last year, a recent study by the Carnegie Institution for Science suggests that as many as 58 million trees are suffering severe water loss because of the drought.
    Most are outside Los Angeles and in the southern Sierra, but the Bay Area and North Coast are not without casualties.
  • The forecast for a La Niña this fall or winter only adds to the concern. La Niña, which is the opposite climate pattern of El Niño and represents a cooling of the Pacific tropics, is sometimes associated with dry weather in California — though that trend is far from clear.
  • Federal officials say wildfire danger nationwide has increased with climate change.
    Fire seasons have lengthened by an average of 78 days since 1970, and the average number of acres burned annually has doubled since 1980, they said.

Fire on the mountain…

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