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Cal Fire bracing for another dangerous fire season with below normal snow pack

Record high temperatures this spring are fueling concerns for a raging 2020 fire season

STOCKTON, Calif. — In late October last year, flames overran a large swath of Sonoma County.

When it was over, the Kincade fire burned more than 77,000 acres and destroyed 374 structures. It was California's largest fire for 2019.

This year is shaping up to be another dangerous season.

"You know, we need the rain. Late in the season, we're seeing record temps. It's a year round operation," said Mike Mohler, Deputy Director of Cal Fire.

Mohler says record high temperatures in some locations is fueling the start to this year's fire season.

Snow pack is below normal with the latest survey showing only 53% of the average level in April.

"Snow pack is nothing what it was to this time last year. In fact, some of the resorts were open til July last year, so, what we had last year was, really anything above 4,000-foot elevation, we didn't get any ignitions or any type of sustainable fire. This year, that is not the case," added Mohler.

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If there are mass evacuations because of a wildfire, the Red Cross usually seeks out large public facilities, like a county fairgrounds, for example.

This year their game plan is to avoid them if possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The plan right now is to utilize hotels or motels or dormitory style buildings and make sure people are kept a safe distance apart. If we had to absolutely open up a shelter like we have in the past, we would enact protocols like screening people when they come in [and] making sure the beds are appropriate distance apart," said Stephen Walsh of the Red Cross Gold Country Region in Sacramento.

So far this year, there have been 888 fires statewide, which Cal Fire says is just above average. 1,482 acres have burned, and over 6,000 Cal Fire firefighters are ready.

Tomorrow, the final snow survey of the season takes place in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the hope is major fires like the Kincade Fire can be avoided. 

RELATED: 'They're not in our shoes' | San Joaquin County firefighters calling for coronavirus pre-screening

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