Kim Baldonado/James Wulff
As high temperatures settle in across Southern California, fire officials are urging preventative measures to prepare for what many fear will be the area's worst fire season ever. Kim Baldonado reports from Altadena for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 20, 2014.
Los Angeles officials are concerned about the upcoming fire season, citing an increase in wildfires this year and the ongoing drought in California as warning signs of a dangerous few months ahead.
So far this year, Southern California has seen two big fires, in the Glendora and Azusa areas, and in the foothills above Rancho Cucamonga.
Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a press conference Friday that the area may not get any significant rainfall for another three to six months.
"We’re exceptionally dry, we haven’t been this dry in decades," Patzert said. "The situation is definitely incendiary."
Since January, firefighters have fought more than 2,300 fires throughout the state. That’s about 300 more fires than the same time period last year, and the state fire protection department said about 200 new wildfires have broken out in the past week.
Officials said clearing the brush around homes is crucial to protecting them from fires. Houses need what firefighters call "defensible space," a buffer between the house and brush surrounding it, which should be kept "lean, clean and green."
LA County Deputy Fire Chief John Todd encouraged people to remove flammable items from their homes. Wood piles, patio furniture and even brooms can easily ignite if an ember takes hold, Todd said.
Wildfires are likely to occur in areas with old vegetation that have not burned in a while, said Richard Minnich, an earth sciences professor at the University of California at Riverside.
The older the vegetation, the more fuel it provides for a fire. Older vegetation also takes up more water, Minnich said, and easily dries itself out.
"It’s the combination of extra energy and dry vegetation," Minnich said. "What you need to do is look at a map, find out which areas haven’t burned in a while."
Areas with old brush are highly flammable and likely to burn soon. Minnich said an area north of Monrovia and the eastern half of the San Bernandino Mountains have not had major fires in decades and are at high risk.