Although the area has had a lot of snow and rain in the winter and spring seasons, the fire season will be “low and late” this year, according to fire officials.
The heavy precipitation has caused grasses like bitterbrush, sagebrush and cheat grass to grow at an elevated rate this year. Those grasses help fuel fires, said Carson Ranger Gary Schiff of the Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest District.
“We will have a season that is low and late,” Schiff said. “(Cheat grass) is one of the most underrated fuel types in my experience.”
Schiff said that we have had the wettest winter in 10 years, which will likely hold off the fires until later in the summer.
Bob Kielty, a training officer with the Central Lyon Fire District in Nevada, said he doesn’t like to make fire predictions, but agreed that cheat grass is a strong carrier fuel.
“Everything is starting to dry out,” Kielty noted.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services Group in Boise, Idaho, which issued a national wildland fire outlook on April 8, Northern California’s fire potential is normal to above normal this year.
“Although above to much above average precipitation occurred in most areas of California during fall and winter, large areas of brush and timber mortality remain throughout many portions of the state,” the report stated.
The report also noted that above normal fire potential is expected for the Southern California desert and in the extreme northern and northeastern corner of California. Elsewhere, near normal fire potential is anticipated. The Northern California fire season typically extends from early June to October.
Kielty said the area is at greatest risk of fire from 12 to 5 p.m. when the winds pick up and the heat is at its hottest. Some factors that affect fires include weather, topography and types of fuel (grasses, shrubs, trees, houses, propane tanks, etc.). In this area, gradient winds cause unpredictable fires.
Firefighters are always aware of the current and predicted weather conditions and know the weather and smoke patterns, Kielty noted.
“We want to get out there as soon as we can and size it up,” Kielty said of wildfires.
The Fire Safe Council of California offers homeowners various brochures on how to make their home fire safe. Research shows that how a house is built, the characteristics of the landscaping and routine maintenance often determine which homes burn and which survive. Simple things like having a fire resistant roof, removing dead branches from around the home and making sure firefighters can easily access the house are ways to prevent your home from burning down.
“Fire is an unpredictable animal,” Schiff said.
For more information to help make your home fire safe, visit www.livingwithfire.info or www.firesafecouncil.org.