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California preparing for an earlier, more explosive fire season

Cal Fire says the lack of rain means grasses and other vegetation are void of any moisture, making them prime for burning.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The door is closing on California's wet season. It started with record-setting rain and snow, but ended with record-setting dry conditions.

Jon Heggie, battalion chief with Cal Fire, says they are already preparing for an earlier start to the peak season and what could be a more explosive fire year. This is due to the lack of moisture already recorded in grasses and other vegetation, making them prime for burning.

Cal Fire is also closely monitoring the changes in fuel dryness for potential fast moving fires. This helps to determine staffing and dispatch levels which can aide in faster response times.

Heggie says Cal Fire will also continue to integrate new technology like the nighttime air attack helicopters. These firefighting tools made their Northern California debut during the 2021 Caldor Fire that ran through El Dorado County. He said that along with new tools there are also mitigation strategies put into place like vegetation clearing.

Brian Estes with the Cal Fire Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit says they are already working with Placer County in areas like Colfax that were hit hard by December storms.

The downed and damaged trees are material that becomes ideal fire fuel. They have been conducting prescribed burns in the area to limit the amount flammable areas.

Fire fighting agencies are constantly challenged with the changing fire behavior in California, preparing for everything. 

"What we've seen in the past is what we need to expect in the future," Heggie said.

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