Epic Fire Season May Lay Ahead For The North State, California

Jun 4, 2018

A Cal Fire lookout keeps watch on last summer's Ponderosa Fire near Forbestown in Butte County
Credit courtesy of CAL FIRE

Experts who study fire activity say conditions suggest more wildfires than last year are in store with fire danger just about everywhere in the North State.

Officials are expecting even more wildfires than usual through this year’s fire season, as a combination of a relatively dry winter and late rains have created heightened risks across the North State, and the rest of California.

Stephen Leach is a Bureau of Land Management meteorologist assigned to Predictive Services, an interagency wildfire forecasting task force.

“Overall, we are on a pretty significant precipitation deficit compared to where we were last year at this time,” Leach said.

The prodigious rain and snowfall of the 2016/2017 winter, left enough moisture in place to significantly limit wildfire in the high country. Most of last year’s fires were at foothill elevations. This year will be different.

Leach said the mountains received only about a third of the snow they did the year previously.

“The snow is melting a lot quicker, and in a lot of areas below 8,000 feet we’re already snow free,” he said. "That’s the main difference: all elevations will be available for wildfire this year.”

Predictive Services expects above average wildfire activity this month in the valley with elevated risk spreading throughout the Sierra and Cascade foothills, and in high country in July, along with the eastern slope throughout July and August. Elevated fire potential spreads into the Trinity Alps, the Mendocino Range and into the coastal mountains in general in September while returning to normal risk in Modoc, Siskiyou and Lassen County.