Fire season is off to an extremely early start

April 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fire crews in both the City and County of Fresno are preparing for what could be a dangerous and potentially devastating fire season. April has been a hot and dry month so far, and that means fire season is off to an extremely early start.

Crews say they're already seeing "summer like" fire conditions. CAL FIRE and Fresno County Fire crews battled 19 different fires throughout the day and on into Wednesday evening.

What started as two, small brush fires in Western Fresno County quickly merged into one large fire on Wednesday night. It eventually burned to 10 acres. Just up Highway 33, crews battled another brush fire which spread to 25 acres.

Ryan Michaels, a spokesperson for CAL FIRE said, "Several of them destroyed 10 or 25 acres a lot were held at one acre but that many active fires with cool temperatures is an indicator of how potentially dangerous and devastating this summer could be."

Michaels says over the past few weeks, high winds dried out the grass in and around Fresno County. Couple that with historic drought, and fire season was launched a month early.

Michaels said, "We experienced very little rainfalls, the snowpack and level is 50% of what it should be."

Which is why CAL FIRE crews fought 19 fires in one day, spanning from Prather to Western Fresno County.

Fresno Fire Fighters have also been busy and are reporting a huge increase in the number of fires as compared to last year.

Public Information Officer Koby Johns said, "We've had 60 grass fires from the beginning of March till now. That's a 200% increase from this time last year."

He says "unseasonable" heat gives fire fighters two things. Water emergencies and grass fires. To prepare for what could happen in the brush, Fresno Fire Crews train, and practice wildland techniques in places like the San Joaquin River Bottom, an area that's notorious for flames.

Johns said, "A careless cigarette butt or a campfire or any other thing that's creating and generating heat can get away from you really quickly and we just need people not to make those bad choices."

Which is why fire crews are starting early, focusing on prevention and getting ahead of what could be a bad fire season.

Since the beginning of the year, CAL FIRE has responded to more than 700 fires, including the ones in Fresno County on Wednesday night. That is more than 200 above the average for this time of year.


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