Recent wet weather prompted Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties on Monday to call an end – about three weeks early – to this year’s wildfire season.
Since fire season began in May, 128 fires scorched 8,000 acres in the unincorporated areas monitored by Santa Barbara County. In San Luis Obispo County, firefighters battled 220 blazes that burned 657 acres.
“It was a slower year for us in the county,” said Capt. Diondray Wiley, of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. He added that the 7,441-acre Gaviota Fire in June was a notable exception.
Fire season usually ends between mid-November and early December, he said, but rains that blanketed the area last week decreased the chances that brush and grass will burn out of control.
Up to 10 inches fell in some higher-elevation areas of Santa Barbara County last month, which is well above average. San Luis Obispo County had an average of about 5 inches of rain.
The end of fire season means officials will reduce the amount of resources dispatched to a fire, Wiley said, though a helicopter will continue to respond.
Residents also are now allowed to apply for burn permits in high-hazard areas, Wiley said.
The close of fire season coincided with a recent increase in hot, dry Santa Ana winds in Southern California, which can act as a catalyst for fires. Firefighters continue to monitor the winds, because they can fan flames in dry brush in wildland areas, Wiley said.
“The number of fires (in San Luis Obispo County) is about our average and the acreage is lower than it normally is,” said Mike Cole, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection battalion chief. He attributed the smaller blazes to mild weather, good luck and fast response times.
“It was much quieter this year than last year,” he added.
CDF on Monday laid off 40 of the 60 seasonal firefighters that supplement 150 permanent positions, Cole said. The department also closed three outlying stations in North County.
Starting today, open burning is allowed in designated areas, Cole said. Before burning, residents should contact their local Fire Department or the Air Pollution ControlDistrict.