Early dry conditions point to busy fire season ahead

By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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A scorching start to fire season has sent a clear message to fire officials about the summer ahead. “We are active very early,” said Bill Mendonca, battalion chief with Cal Fire. “Generally we have a few fires that act as a precursor to the bigger fires we see as the season progresses.” But that is not the case this year, he said. “We are having big fires early,” he said. “We are probably in August burning conditions.” Wind-driven fires seared more than 20 acres in the Auburn area, 65 acres in Lincoln and thousands across the state last week. Red-flag warnings signaling high winds and increased fire risk issued throughout the week by the National Weather Service were not in effect Friday. Weather Service officials indicated earlier this week that there may be no relief in sight when looking into the summer. “Things are looking dry this summer,” said Felix Garcia, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “We’re not expecting any rain. In terms of the weather, we are looking at July conditions right now.” Holly Osborne, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said winds are ex-pected to die down over the weekend and into the early part of next week. “We have had some gusty winds from Tuesday through Thursday,” Osborne said. “But they should be getting lighter and should turn more to the south.” The Weather Service was not expecting critical fire weather Friday or throughout the weekend, she said While the wind predictions are expected to slow down over the next several days, the area is not out of danger yet. “The problem is that the temperature is going up,” Mendonca said. “We are still in critical burning conditions because it is only going to get hotter.” The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at or comment on this story at ---------- More information: Keep your place fire safe Each year, Cal Fire responds to more than 1,600 fires started by Californians using equipment the wrong way. Whether working to create a defensible space around your home, just mowing the lawn or pulling your dirt bike over to the side of the road, if you live in a wildland area you need to use all equipment responsibly. Cal Fire officials ask that you follow these tips and do your part to keep your community fire safe. - Do all yard maintenance that requires a gas or electric motor before 10 a.m., not in the heat of the day or when the wind is blowing. -Lawnmowers are designed to mow lawns. Never use lawnmowers in dry vegetation. - Use a weed trimmer to cut down dry weeds and grass. - Remove rocks in the area before you begin operating any equipment. A rock hidden in grass or weeds is enough to start a fire when struck by a metal blade. - In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable powered equipment including tractors, harvesters, chain saws, weedeaters, mowers, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. - Keep the exhaust system, spark arresters and mower in proper working order and free of car-bon buildup. - Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires you won’t see, until it’s too late. - Don’t pull off into dry grass or brush.