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It’s January And Sadly, Wildfires Are Still A Threat

The Hogsback Fire burns on Mt. Baldy – one of Southern California's tallest mountains – during what's typically the region's rainy season. (USDA Forest Service)
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Just in case you thought that we left behind the possibility of bad wildfires when calendars ticked over to 2021 and cooler winter temperatures set in, I’m sorry to say that I’m here to disappoint you.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for today and Friday because of the very un-winterlike conditions that have left our landscapes parched and raised the risk of fast moving wildfires.

In fact, there’s a brush fire on Mt. Baldy right now.

If you’ve been tracking the start of our so-called “rainy season,” you shouldn’t be surprised that we’re here.

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Besides a couple of inches of rain in late December, we’re only at about 30 percent of average across much of Southern California. And with temperatures hitting the upper 80s, relative humidity flirting with the single digits, and Santa Ana wind gusts reaching 50 mph over the next two days, it’s unsurprising that vegetation is primed to burn.

Dry weather often comes along with La Niña conditions in Southern California, which can result in drier than average years, and this year it appears we could be seeing just that. There’s a 50 percent chance the weather pattern will go away sometime around March.

High temperatures and extreme dryness are also classic markers of climate change in our area.

Gaze into the near future and there’s major cause for concern. The lack of rain through some of our most crucial wet months, and no promise of precipitation anywhere on the horizon, means that drought conditions will continue to spread throughout the state.

This year the all-important snowpack — a key supply of water — is only at 48 percent of the average as of January 14. Combined with a paltry showing of snow and rain in Northern California last year, our reservoirs are ticking lower and lower, many beneath their historical averages.

We’re still in the middle of the peak of Santa Ana wind season, so unless we get some wetness, don’t be surprised if wildfires pop up.


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