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Cal Fire warns of possible uptick in fire season after slow start

California's wildfire season has gotten off to a slow start, compared to recent years, but officials warn of an uptick - with high temps and possible dry lightning.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With this week’s high temperatures plus the risk of dry lightning in parts of the area this week, Cal Fire is asking people to be on guard.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jon Heggie said the state could start seeing a more active fire season, after what has been a slower start compared to recent years.

At the latest count (June 17), the number of acres burned at this point in the year is lower than the five-year average for this time, with 16,907 acres burned so far this year compared to five-year average of 21,755.

Plus, California has seen 500 fewer fires at this point - 2,972 - compared to the same time last year - 3,472.

RELATED: Will rain and snow delay fire activity? | Wildfire experts weigh in

As Heggie explains, “we really haven't had the record heat and hot temperatures and low humidities at this time... where we've seen in years past, so our fire activity has been a bit, a little bit, slower than normal. But the reality is, we're seeing some hotter temperatures on the horizon and some drier temperatures and potentially some monsoonal moisture coming in, which has the potential for dry lightning, and we could be very active within the next few days.”

He pointed out the damage lightning caused two years ago.

“Back in 2020, we were hit with a series of dry lightning up and down the state, which was historic proportions,” Heggie said. “We had thousands of fires burning up and down the state, so really that is the worst case scenario.”

Four of those 2020 lightning-caused fires made the list of California’s 20 largest wildfires. Nearly half of that list were caused by lightning, including two from last year.

“We are in a different era of fire,” Heggie said.

That means people living in areas once thought to be safe from wildfires should come up with an evacuation plan just in case, Heggie said.

“What we're looking at this year is the effects of the lack of rain that we did not receive over the wintertime,” Heggie said. “So with that void of moisture, the potential for fires as we get into these hotter months is just going to increase. So fire prevention and fire awareness is really key as we get into the summer months.”

Cal Fire recommends people check out their wildfire preparedness website HERE, which they call a one-stop shop for wildfire safety and preparation resources.

New this year, Heggie said Cal Fire will start using its Cal Fire Hawk helicopters to do night-time firefighting, something that’s very difficult and dangerous to do. Pilots have been training on the new S70i helicopters over the past year and will start doing night-time drops this fire season, when the conditions and situation merit it.


California Wildfire: Preparing for an earlier, more explosive fire season

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