Drought conditions raise fire danger

Historic drought conditions mean extreme fire danger this winter all across the state.
January 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Historic drought conditions mean extreme fire danger this winter all across the state. Right now, the Valley is still seeing dangerous conditions typical of the summer fire season.

The extremely dry conditions and some red flag warnings in different parts of the state have Cal Fire crews rushing to cover the area most at risk for a wildfire.

These flames burned through more than 250,000 acres last summer, that's almost four times the size of Fresno.

This year fire fighters fear conditions are prime for a repeat of the Rim Fire, the third largest in state history.

"That ever present danger of a wild land fire is right upon all of us," said Cal Fire Captain Ryan Michaels. "And in different parts of the state those conditions are ripe for a significant incident."

Closer to home what we'll see more often is swift moving brush fires like the one in Fresno County last June that nearly destroyed William Douglas' home. Douglas remembers that day clearly. The flames burned through a patch of eucalyptus trees, burning only about 30 yards from his home.

"I just always keep the weeds down because there is a risk," Douglas said.

Fortunately, fire crews and the defensible space he constantly keeps around his home prevented the house from burning down.

Cal Fire says crews all over the state are constantly shifting location because we're still under summer fire season conditions. "We still have that present danger of a wild land fire," Michaels said. "And it's going to leave homeowners a really small window to clean their property."

"Take it serious," Douglas warns. "It doesn't take... even grass fires, that's what jumped the road, half a mile over the road on Highland. It jumped the road because the wind was blowing so hard."

This year anytime a major wildfire ignites around central California the US Forest Service says firefighting aircraft will be able to refuel and reload equipment at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater. That and additional fire fighters on staff should improve responsiveness.

Fire crews also say though no matter how much equipment they may have the best thing is to prevent fires. They're asking everyone to be aware of their surroundings during winter months when we tend to let our guard down for fire safety.


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