After consecutive benign wildfire seasons California and the western states should see a return to normal or above normal fire activity in 2012. In mid February Cal Fire and local crews responded to a 200 acre fire in oak woodlands in Napa County, north of San Francisco. Big Sur and Paso Robles on the central coast have already seen active burning.
Kate Novoa on the Big Sur coast posted an image on BigSurKate.com showing impressive flame length from a local fire on February 7. Kimmer in Paso Robles offered this night view of a fire near Lake Nacimiento last week.
A friend in Prather, a community in the central valley foothills at the 1,500 foot level informed me there was very little green on her property. She said the last time it was this brown this early was 2008.
2008 was the tail end of a severe drought in California and dead fuel and fuel loads were high and fuel moisture was at historic low levels. 2010 and 2011 were very wet years and total burned acreage was down. There is no reason to believe we will see a repeat of the 2008 fire season but a dry winter and spring means we’ll experience a longer burning season at the very least.
It is important for rural residents to assess their defensible space before too much longer. Though we are still due for some more rain the die has been cast, we’re dry and the fire season is beginning.