Wildfires, landslides still a threat for local areas

The Tulare County Fire Department has several strike teams in Butte County, where the deadly Camp Fire continues to burn.

It is now the most destructive fire in state history, taking out more than 6,000 structures.

Chief Charlie Norman knows the same sort of devastation could happen in Tulare County.

Its mountain and foothill communities are surrounded by dead trees, killed off by the drought and bark beetle infestation.

"(There are) 29 million in Tulare county, 129 million statewide," Norman said. "So the fuels are dry, the weather conditions are just ripe for burning."

In response to increasingly erratic fire behavior and the threat of wildfire all year long, Norman says his department has developed new pre-positioning plans to be ready for the worst-case scenario.

They've also added seasonal firefighters to remove brush from roads.

"Once we get some clearing along those, which we're doing a pretty job on, then we'll start community fire breaks," Norman said.

"While (wildfires) are a natural hazard in their own right, in many cases they're just the first hazard we're going to experience at that location," Fresno State's Jerome DeGraff said.

DeGraff is a Fresno State Earth and Environmental Sciences lecturer and retired U.S. Forest Service geologist with extensive experience in assessing the destructive force that often follows wildfires-landslides.

That's likely the next focus for crews battling blazes in Northern and Southern California, but there may not be much time for planning.

It's already November.

"We're so close to the rainy season," DeGraff said. "That means we're going to find ourselves in many situations with having debris flows coming down maybe affecting the same areas that have already been burned or maybe even reaching areas-because debris flows travel sometimes miles from their source and origin-even into neighborhoods that were fortunate enough to be spared by the fire directly."

And even if no major fires break out in our backyard anytime soon, DeGraff says there's still the potential for debris flow in previously burned areas.
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