Forecast: Above Average Fire Activity Expected Below 6,000’ Except In The Sierra 

Aug 6, 2019

The Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018.
Credit Noah Berger / AP Photo


Firefighters have a busy late summer and autumn ahead across most of Northern California if official forecasts are accurate.  


A new report, prepared by Predictive Services says pretty much all of the Northern half of the state, with the exception of the Northern Sierra, will experience above normal fire activity in coming months. Predictive Services is an inter-agency group assembled by the US Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management and Cal-Fire that studies weather patterns, air and soil moisture and other factors that can contribute to a fire breaking out, or spreading, well, like wildfire. 

Fire risk in the Northern Sierra and areas above 6,000 feet across the region are hardly ‘out of the woods’ as it were — fire danger there is expected to be average.  


For more on what to expect, I spoke with Brent Wachter, a Predictive Services Fire Meteorologist based in Redding. He began the conversation by describing the most recent model runs.  


“Areas that have been most at risk, the past couple months will remain that way, and that’s across the greater Bay Area, across the Sacramento Valley, and the big driver there is the grass-fuel-loading. We have above normal grass growth that occurred with our last growing season, that’s all ‘cured-out,’ even the weeds that sprung up during that moist May, they are even drying out in those areas." Watcher explained. "We’re also seeing the mid-elevations starting to open up to large fire business. And that’s what we’re projecting at Predictive Services, we’re projecting large fires, significant fires, one that need the air tankers and are more expensive to control.”  


Dangers shift as the fire season continues. The southwestern monsoon can often bring dry lightning to higher elevations in Northern California starting in late July. Starting in September, storm systems rolling eastward out of the Pacific Northwest start pushing hot, dry air our way out of Nevada and eastern Oregon. Meanwhile, human caused fires can occur at any time, and be just as destructive.