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In 2020, California had the worst fire season in the state’s history. Due to extreme drought, 2021 has already exceeded the number of forest fires in the first half of the year.
With only 40% of the average rainfall recorded to date, the moisture content of the living fuel is well below the historical average. The region sees an increased and accelerated risk of forest fires, said Daryl Osby, LA County’s chief fire officer.
“It’s no surprise that we have a fire season all year round,” Osby said at a press conference on Friday.
The bone-dry dry bushes caused fire behavior that was normally not observed until autumn, much earlier in the year.
For example, the Palisades fire reached over 1,200 acres in May, fueled by decades of growth that had dried up from the drought.
The fire chief said the trend was “very problematic and worrying for first responders”.
What would have been a 10 acre fire at this time of year grows to over hundreds of acres recently seen in Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita, Osby added.
Lots of patches, one goal
A southern California bushfire can quickly spread to multiple jurisdictions, including the city and county, and federal level with the Angeles National Forest.
This cross-agency response is critical to preventing a small fire from spreading into a major incident, said Chief Brian Marshall of the California Office of Emergency Services (OES).
Mutual aid began in California in the 1940s and has grown exponentially since its inception, according to Marshall.
OES provides nearly 300 fire engines to supplement personnel during high risk incidents, including red flag warnings that increase the risk of fire.
In addition to the engines, the state is also providing additional firefighters, helicopters, hand crews and bulldozers, giving local authorities a “chance to fight” to fight the record fires.
“There’s a saying in California, ‘Nobody stands alone,’” said Marshall. “No matter which agency or patch.”
As departments prepare for a potentially significant fire season, fire officials urge the public to do their part.
LA County Fire has the “Ready, Set Go!” Local residents should draw up an action plan for forest fires
“Climate change has increased the fire season all year round and has increased our ever-growing number of forest fires,” Osby said in an online message to local residents. “Firefighters and local residents are now constantly on the alert for the threat of forest fires.”
The program provides vital information on creating a defensible space around a home, retrofitting homes with fire-resistant material, and preparing for a safe evacuation long before wildfire.
More information on “Ready, let’s go!