Welcome to wildfire season, California. Today, six wildfires are burning throughout state, two which are here in Southern California. And they are, to say the least, more intense than usual for this time of year.
"We're seeing fire behavior that we should be seeing in late June or early July, [not May]", explained Daniel Berlant of CAL FIRE. By behavior, he means the rate of spread. Take the Springs Fire in Ventura County, which ignited today and within a several hours already had burned over 8,000 acres. Up in Tehama County, the Panther Fire grew from 1,600 to 10,000 acres.
Since these conditions are normal for peak summertime, Berlant finds this early season intensity disconcerting. "The conditions will only dry out more; even though we are very dry right now, the brush and timber still have some moisture in it," he explained.
But this is no surprise to fire officials, who have been planning and deploying resources earlier than usual. To date, the number of wildfires already this year is more than 60 percent than normal, according to today's statewide fire summary report. And all of this a few days before Wildfire Awareness Week begins, which could not come sooner.
Berlant noted that home power equipment, like lawnmowers and weed whackers, continues to be one of the leading causes of wildfires. "All it takes is a blade on a rock and a fire is sparked," he said, encouraging brush clearance work to take place in the morning when there's more moisture and higher humidity in the air, but not when it's windy or very dry (for more tips, the state's slick readyforwildfire.org is helpful).