The Drought Could Make This The Worst Fire Season Ever In California
After three years of drought, California could be dealing with its worst fire season ever this summer.
Vegetation is tinder-dry, serving as the perfect fuel for a particularly nasty fire season. There's still no rain in sight and above-average temperatures expected this summer. It's not even July, and this fire season is worse than most. Through this past weekend, fire crews throughout the state have already battled 2,100 wildfires that have burned 17,000 acres. That's well beyond the annual averages of 1,250 fires and 10,000 acres according to CAL FIRE.
Here in SoCal, we've had our share of major wildfires, including the massive Colby Fire back in January that burned 2,000 acres and destroyed five homes. That fire, like 90% of wildfires, was sparked by humans. The Etiwanda Fire at the end of April thankfully was less destructive, and it at least brought us a bit of viral gold when the infamous Shirtless Bro asked a reporter out on live TV.
"This winter we began experiencing conditions that we would usually see in August. In Southern California we never really transitioned out of fire season and in Northern California we began hiring seasonal firefighters several months earlier than normal," said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE.
"The situation is extremely serious—I’d say incendiary," punny JPL climatologist Bill Patzert told the Los Angeles Daily News.
However, not all experts think the dry conditions will necessarily lead to a worse fire season. According to the San Bernardino Sun, UC Riverside fire ecologist Richard Minnich said in a video statement, "If you explore statistically the relationship between the amount of rainfall and the amount of burning that takes place in Southern California wildlands, the relationship is, in fact, random."
Regardless, officials are taking no chances. Back in May, Governor Jerry Brown said the state had already appropriated $600 million for fighting fires but still worried it wouldn't be enough. CAL FIRE is recommending home owners in fire-prone areas to maintain a 100-foot 'defensible space' around their properties, and to avoid using machinery during the middle of the day that could spark a blaze, including lawnmowers and weed trimmers.
Oh, and that El Niño that could put all of our drought worries away this Fall? Don't get your hopes up, said Bill Patzert.
"It's the great wet hope. But the bad news is it's kind of backed off—so don't cash in your 401Ks and invest in umbrellas yet."