VICTORVILLE Firefighters are keeping a close eye on the record amount of rainfall in the High Desert, which is fueling the tremendous growth of desert vegetation.
Depending on when the rainy season ends and when vegetation consisting of desert brush and grasses dries out will determine how rough of a fire season could occur later this year, fire weather forecasters said.
The crucial months will be May and June, they said.
“Severe fire season is a function of how quickly the vegetation dries out. It all depends,” said Tom Rolinski, fire weather forecaster for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “We could have rain extending into May and early June that just sort of keeps the fuels maintaining their moisture.”
Rolinski and other forecasters at the Interagency Fire Weather Center in Riverside will learn what the coming fire season holds for Southern California and the rest of the nation at a conference in Boulder, Colo., at the end of this month, Rolinski said.
Battalion Chief Sid Hultquist, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said there could be a rough fire season for remote areas, especially those in the Stoddard Wells Road area and north Apple Valley.
“In Southern California, you can always anticipate a bad fire season because it happens every single year,” said Hultquist, who is based in Hesperia. “This year, we have seen an excessive grass crop.”
Years of drought had made desert grasses nonexistent or kept them to a minimum in many areas, but this year’s record rainy season has prompted tremendous vegetation growth, officials said.
“We have the potential this year to have a significant fire season in the remote areas of the High Desert,” Hultquist said. “There are actually areas with 3 feet of grass, where in the last six to seven years there was nothing.”
But before they ring too many alarms, firefighters want to wait and see how the rest of the rainy season plays out and how quickly hot, dry temperatures return.
Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t prepare.
County firefighters in Hesperia are now in the preparatory stages for wildland fire training and getting wildland fire suppression gear ready, Hultquist said.
They are also developing preset firefighting plans for all areas under their control, and developing structure-protection plans.