The risk of large wildfires remains high in  California, the National Interagency Fire Center says.

03 November 2020

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USA – Fall is the windy season, and dry fuels remain in much of the state.

“The fall fire season in California is always a concern,” NIFC meteorologist Nick Nauslar said. “This is the time of year for them to get offshore wind. … And given how dry the fuels are going into the fall season and the late start to cool-season rain, any offshore-wind events are going to be concerning for new ignitions and potentially rapid rates of spread.”

Light rain and high-elevation snow expected this weekend and early next week will likely amount to a reprieve rather than “a season-ending type of event,” he said.

Fire officials want big storm systems that flow more west-to-east, Nauslar said. These can bring more precipitation and onshore flow to California, along with cooler, more humid conditions. Storms moving north or south often bring more wind and drier conditions.

The risk of large fires is normal or nearly so in many parts of the West, though “there are still very dry fuels across portions of the Great Basin and many portions of the central and southern Intermountain West,” Nauslar said. Some dry storms ignited fires Nov. 2 in southern Nevada, southern Utah and northwestern Arizona.

NIFC’s National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for November through February said La Nina and current fuel conditions are the main drivers of significant-fire risk through fall and winter. Drought will continue into winter in much of California, the Great Basin and Southwest.

California’s fire risk is elevated in locations prone to downslope and offshore winds, NIFC said. Precipitation in Northern California should reduce large-fire concerns in December and shift the focus south.

Large-fire risk will remain above normal in Northern California and Hawaii in November and in much of Southern California through December.

The risk is normal through February in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, Great Basin and much of the Rockies and Southwest.

NIFC reported that 38 large fires continue to burn 3.1 million acres in 10 states.

That total includes 18 fires in California burning 2,263,823 acres.

Washington has one fire burning 24,995 acres.

Idaho had four fires burning 33,891 acres, while Oregon had two burning 27,417 acres.

NIFC said overall 47,506 fires had burned 8,596,235 acres year-to-date.

That compares with 44,929 fires burning 4,567,017 acres in 2019 year-to-date, and a 2010-19 average of 51,956 fires burning 6,442,501 acres.

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