Where Will The Next Big Fire In California Strike?

TheBlaze.com offered a link to iDV Solutions awesome heat map showing major wildfires in the USA over the past 11 years.

Naturally I took interest in California fires since over the past decade Firefighter Blog has focused on the wildfires within the Golden State.

Every geographic area of the state has had its share of major wildfires over the past decade helped in large part by a 7 year drought in the middle of the decade. What has not burned interests me as much as what has already burned. Two areas stand out to me as most vulnerable. Below I took the liberty of marking up iDV Solutions’ map to highlight those two areas.

Perhaps the geographic spot most vulnerable to a major wildfire within California at the moment is the central Sierra’s that include  the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. If you take a look at the current U.S. drought map the central section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is experiencing drought.

Note the area between the 75,000 acre Telegraph Fire in 2008  and the 150,000 acre McNally Fire in 2002. The area between those fires is roughly 170 miles and encompasses the southern boundaries of Yosemite National Park and all of the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. The single most vulnerable city in this field from my point of view is Oakhurst.

California Fire Prediction

California Large Fire Prediction

The second area of concern is bounded by the 244,000 acre Basin Complex Fire of 2008 to the north and the 240,000 acre Zaca Fire of 2007  to the south. This area is mostly within the Los Padres National Forest from the southern Big Sur coast to just south of Solvang 175 miles to the south including Vandenberg Air Force Base.  The community most at risk in this assessment is Cambria California.

6 Comments

  • Interesting
    post. History is the best tool for predicting the future. The men and women who
    put their lifes at risk during these wildfires deserve a great deal of respect.

  • FirefighterBlog says:

    You are correct Burt. CalFire is the finest wildland firefighting force ever known. Even so most of the response area mentioned on the coast is Forest Service and as good as they are they do not respond in force. As for the town of Cambria, let’s hope my prediction never comes true obviously but given the right weather conditions it could go. Not even Calfire can battle wind driven events.

  • If the prediction is accurate than its really harmful for both the areas.

  • BurtS says:

    The Calf Fire is located within the second zone you mentioned. Rapid, overwhelming  response appears to have stopped this fire on the first day with ~ 650 acres burned.

    I’ve seen the same philosophy employed to respond to small fires (< 2 acres) a few miles North of the Calf Fire earlier in the summer. In each case a dozen trucks, 2 bombers, and a spotter were dispatched as soon as the fire call came in.

    • Lars says:

       Not trucks– engines

      Not bombers– air tankers

      Not spotters–air tactical group supervisor aka “air attack”

      Cal Fire operates under the philosophy of keeping all fires to 10 acres or less or within one burning period; 10 am to 10 am (24hrs).

      Anchor, flank and hold.

  • Frank Morales says:

    Great analysis! If there are several other large fires going on around the state that spread out resources, I think either of those communities (Oakhurst or Cambria) would be at serious risk of major devastation from a wind-driven wildfire. 

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Mike Morales

Retired Cal Fire/CDF Fire Captain

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