Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Officials worry that California faces worst wildfire season in years

Jared Grigsby in the Sacramento Bee, via AP: …Federal and state fire officials are warning that a third year of drought means California could face one of its worst wildfire seasons in years. Scientists say the danger could be heightened by global warming.

Peak fire season begins July 1, but Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said a severe, early spring fire in Santa Barbara has fire officials concerned about the intensity of this year’s wildfire season.

“Experts believe that climate change may be influencing drought and therefore wildfire occurrences, but that’s an ongoing study,” she said. There already have been 2,959 wildfires this year in California, up from 2,354 a year ago at this time, Upton said.

Though the state has seen more fires this year, less area has been destroyed than during the same period last year. A total of 27.8 square miles have burned so far this year, compared to 530.2 square miles this time last year, according to state fire officials.

Upton attributed the decrease to the fast, effective response of fire crews, even though state budget cuts have reduced the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s coffers by $27 million this year. The amount includes funds for a proposed exclusive contract for a DC-10 airtanker…..

The Simi Valley fire of 2003

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