Saturday, September 27, 2014

California’s fire season has been going nonstop for 18 months, and there’s no end in sight

Reid Wilson in the Washington Post: An unprecedented drought that has parched Northern California has led to one of the most active fire seasons on record, and there is little hope of a wet and cool end in sight, the state’s top fire fighting official said Monday.

In an interview, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said his agency has fought almost 5,000 fires this year, a thousand more than the five-year average. Over the last five years, CalFire has battled an average of 3,951 fires between Jan. 1 and Sept. 20. This year, the agency has fought 4,974 fires throughout the state.

In truth, the dry conditions mean fire season never stops. State fire fighters started the year fighting a 330-acre fire in Humboldt County, one of the wettest counties in the continental United States.

“We’ve been in year-round fire season conditions since April or so of 2013. We haven’t been out of fire season for a year and a half and quite honestly don’t anticipate going out of fire season this year unless we see a significant change in the weather,” Pimlott said.

This week, Pimlott’s agency, better known as CalFire, is battling an 89,000-acre blaze known as the King Fire, east of Sacramento and southwest of Lake Tahoe. The King Fire began 10 days ago; high winds and parched conditions allowed the fire to grow by a stunning 50,000 acres in a single afternoon. Pimlott said it was the fastest single-day growth of a fire in memory. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 35 percent contained.

...“With little rain or precipitation in three years, we are seeing again just explosive conditions. The vegetation is so dry,” Pimlott said. “There is no end in sight. While we’ve had moderate weather conditions this week, we anticipate getting into the Santa Ana Winds season in Southern California, which happens traditionally in the summer months.”

Meadow Fire erupted in the Little Yosemite Valley area of Yosemite National Park, Sept 7, 2014, growing to over 2,500 acres in one day. The peaks of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Mount Broderick, and Liberty Cap ring the northern and western edges of the region, which includes the Merced River. Shot by Pbjamesphoto,Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons 4.0 license

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