Persistent, strong spring winds have been drying taller and heavier than usual grasses and lowland brush in California. El Nino rains brought tall grass and thicker than normal brush to California and the West. Fuel loads are higher so wildland firefighters can expect hotter and more explosive conditions than normal.
History tells us summers in an El Nino year see less seasonal acres burn. Consensus among wildland firefighters and statistical charts back that up. You can sift through Cal Fire numbers here and measure against El Nino event years here.
This year may be different because of the persistent Spring wind. I saw a grassland pasture go from swampy wet to close enough to burn in a two week stretch in mid May, the result of an almost daily blast of near gale force winds.
Southern California is ready, a few fires in the Southland and Central Coast have been tackled by Cal Fire and supporting agencies. The Pedley Fire took out nearly 1,000 acres May 12 and the Cotton Fire that burned 2,000 acres in San luis Obispo County May 15 -18.
Portions of the Sierra Nevada Range have received 167% of normal snow. Have a look at some of the high Sierra webcams. There is a good chance the high country can escape the summer with no major events. Lightning strikes will keep crews busy off and on but high country campaign fires seem unlikely.
I shot the video below near Mariposa County in mid May. This is grazed pasture land in an area known for fast running range fires. This is the wind we’ve experienced daily for more than a month.
Finally here is an image I shot in Yosemite Valley two weeks ago. There is no fire value in it but if you are familiar with Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite Valley you can appreciate the volume of water coming over the edge.