Fire fall: Potential for ‘large’ wildfires in Northern California above average

REDDING — An outlook that includes words like drier, warmer, gusty winds from the north and east, thunderstorms and lightning aren’t what north state firefighters want to hear.

But that’s the crystal ball outlook being delivered for the next four months. It also means there’s a greater chance for “large” fires measuring more than 150 acres.

And true to form, up pops the Red Bank wildfire, west of Red Bluff, that as of Tuesday morning measured 8,800 acres — caused by lightning. Other fires reported just this past week include the Swedes Fire near Oroville in Butte County, which was at 400 acres on Tuesday; and the Walker Fire in Plumas County was reported Tuesday at 47,340 acres and only 12% contained.

Compare those acres as of Tuesday to the Nov. 8, 2018, Camp Fire, considered the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, which caused at least 85 civilian fatalities, with one person still missing, injured others and covered 153,336 acres, almost 240 square miles, before it was contained. And that was in November 2018,

The County Fire, which swept through Guinda and the Capay Valley starting June 30, 2018, totaled 90,288 acres.

So, the potential for wildfire in Northern California is being considered “above normal” in significance through September and October in the north state, according to Predictive Services, which performs fire outlook forecasting for Cal Fire and other fire and forest agencies. It is affiliated with the Northern California Geographic Coordination Center.

That can mean Northern California could face more, large wildfires, be they human or nature-caused. It also is a signal for firefighting contracts to be lengthened if needed.

Predictive Services’ Redding office, fire meteorologist Brent Wachter says the outlook Northern California is all-around dry.

Those valley counties, such at Butte, Tehama, Shasta and others, are looking ahead to warmer and drier than average weather through the end of the year, resulting in “significant fire potential,” Wachter said.

In providing the outlook, Predictive Services looks at potential rainfall, moisture in vegetation, the outlook for storms, especially thunderstorms, and wind strength.

“There is above-normal large-fire potential for the fall,” he said.

A firefighter carries a water hose Monday along the burn scar left by the Swedes Fire north of Bangor. JAKE HUTCHISON-ENTERPRISE-RECORD

The agency doesn’t give specific amounts or strengths, such as for rain or wind, but puts them at normal, below average or above-average levels.

Sizing up the fire potential isn’t anything new to the north valley, but the gauge and information give fire agencies a taste of what’s in store for their territories.

“They may need to extend firefighting contracts or keep an air tanker close by for longer,” Wachter said.

According to Predictive Services, the areas below 6,000 feet and west of the Cascade-Sierra crest in September and October are facing above-normal significant fire potential. After that, the areas face significant fire potential that is more close to normal.

“Typically the Sacramento Valley and foothills gets two to three large fires in September, and typically one in October,” Wachter said, describing “large” as at least 150 acres.

“We’re …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


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