The summer of 2019 saw a little bit of a break from what’s been a troubling series of wildfire seasons throughout Northern California. It was a much needed reprieve from 2018 which experienced California’s largest, deadliest and most destructive wildfires on record.
Now, as diminished winter has forced areas of NorCal into another drought, CalFire is warning that wildfire season in 2020 could be a difficult endeavor.
Last week marked CalFire’s wildfire preparedness week where officials are preparing for what could be another damaging fire season in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
CAL FIRE Butte Fire Center crews are participating in crew readiness exercises today in Richardson Springs area. The excercises are the standard for allowing the fire crews to be categorized as an initial attack Type I crew. @CAL_FIRE @readyforwildfire pic.twitter.com/469oRQsFqd— CAL FIRE Butte Unit/Butte County Fire Department (@CALFIRE_ButteCo) May 5, 2020
“We’re already 400 fires ahead our average for this time of year,” said CalFire Director Thom Porter. “Over the past several years we’ve had drought conditions that caused 147 million trees to die in the sierras. Those trees are still out there. No amount of rain will bring those trees back.”
Areas of NorCal are already experiencing drought conditions, a telltale sign of an amped up fire season to come. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, sections of Siskiyou, Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity and Shasta Counties are now experiencing “extreme drought,” with many other areas seeing “severe drought” and “abnormally dry” conditions.
CalFire used wildfire preparedness week for training exercises and to cut fire trails for fire engines to access, all while practicing social distancing as prescribed by the state. The agency is planning to use more space at command centers in 2020 to limit the number of first responders to come in contact with Covid-19. But in case of a wildfire, firefighters know their priorities start with the flames, not the virus.
Another difficult fire season is no stranger for NorCal residents, many of whom have been impacted by numerous wildfires in their lives. But for some still struggling following the Carr, Camp, Delta and Mendocino Complex Fires of 2018, another wall of flames approaching their homes may approach a breaking point.