Cal Fire is paying close attention to the recent hot and dry weather. They said that they could beef up their staffing as early as April as they gear up for a potentially busy fire season across California.
Warm, windy weather sent firefighters scrambling earlier Thursday morning as a winter brush fire that took off forced hundreds to evacuate in Laguna Beach in Southern California.
“We have a record of 33 days. 33 consecutive days, which is the longest we’ve ever gone without precipitation during December through February,” said Scientist Andrew Schwartz at UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab.
Schwartz has watched the snowpack rapidly shrink this past month. He told NBC Bay Area Thursday that the winter dry spell doesn’t bode well for the drought or the state’s fire outlook.
“Once, the snowpack disappears and the soil begins to dry out that can really develop quickly and we can see those severe and large fires again potentially this summer,” he said.
Cal Fire officials said they are already in winter preparedness mode. They said they got helicopters, bulldozers and hand crews ready, and they may ramp up to peak staffing in April, a whole month earlier than last year.
“We’re monitoring fire behavior, fuel moisture and the snowpack and preparing to increase staffing commensurate with the risk. That may happen as early as April,” said Cal Fire Assistant Chief Dwight Good.
While many are enjoying the unusual stretch of winter sunshine, firefighters said folks need to create that defensible space around their homes now. Laguna Beach residents certainly got a scary winter wake up call.
“Please be cognizant. We’re in a fire year and if this is any sign of what’s to come throughout the rest of the winter and spring, we’re in for a long year,” said Brian Fennessy with the Orange County Fire Authority.