Dry conditions extend the fire season

FRESNO, Calif.

The drought conditions have forced the US Forest Service to take an unprecedented step. It has now staffed up for what could be the first full-year fire season.

Fire danger remains high in many mountain areas because of all the exposed dry brush and grass. Normally we have a lot of snow in the higher elevations but that's not the case this winter.

Many Sierra National Forest fire stations are normally closed at this time of year. But given the dry conditions in the mountains and foothills they remain staffed with personnel.

Instead of winter preparedness mode where they concentrate on fuel reduction, crews are ready to respond during this extended fire season.

Denise Tolmie is a bio-management specialist with the US Forest Service. She says this is the first time they've considered a year-round fire season.

Tolmie explained, "Unlike a normal year this year we're actually having to staff equipment because of the drought conditions and the lack of rain we've had."

Fire engines and water tenders are staffed. Hot shot crews aren't through for the season. That would change if we ever get normal amounts of snow and rain but right now we continue to deal with abnormally dry conditions.

"We usually have 2-3 months where fires won't carry because we have large amounts of the snow up in the Sierras," said Tolmie. "This is first year that we've had a low amount of snowfall occur during the wintertime."

Over the weekend crews put out a five acre fire in Mariposa County southwest of Wawona.

The fire threat is so serious we have a red flag warning in the Kern County Mountains due to very low humidity and strong wind, a very dangerous combination in drought conditions

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