Winter Drought Leads to Elevated Fire Concerns

May 23, 2013; 7:53 AM ET
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A fire season that started early this year may get much worse over the next five to six months.

A winter that started off wet in November and December 2012 turned into the driest winter on record in more than 130 years for parts of Southern California. Since Jan. 1, 2013, only a small percentage of the normal rainfall occurred as the storm track remained far to the north and east.

Percent of Normal Rain Since Jan. 1, 2013
San Francisco
San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Los Angeles
San Diego
Palm Springs

Added to the very dry weather, there have been several unusual hot spells that quickly dried out the vegetation this spring. By the middle of April, the vegetation was as dry as it normally is in late June. Now, the brush is as dry as it would typically be in August. There have been 1,569 wildfires in California so far this year. That is 85 percent more than average.

With the long, hot, mostly rain-free weather expected into the fall, fire officials have great concerns about the long fire season ahead. Fire departments are urging homeowners to make sure they have the prescribed 100-foot zone around their homes. Officials also are urging the public to be be very careful with outdoor flames, not to leave campfires unattended, to extinguish cigarettes completely and avoid parking cars on dry grass.


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