Moderate Weather Now in California but the Risk of Stronger Winds to Come

Blog Post created by luciandeaton Employee on Sep 27, 2019

Wildland firefightingWhile moderate weather this fall has pacified 2019 wildfire-starts in California compared to previous years, CAL FIRE calls for vigilance as the season unfolds. An article in yesterday’s LA Times shares data on the state’s five current wildfires over 500 acres. These are found in the north and central areas and include the Taboose Fire near Big Pine; the South Fire near Red Bluff; the Springs Fire near Lee Vining; the Cow Fire in the Inyo National Forest; and the Middle Fire in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.  

Moderate weather has meant fewer days of hot and dry wind. Yet, as the season continues, this threat can increase. A FireBreak Blog from 2018 shared an explanation of these winds that fan wildfires, especially in Southern California. It's important to share this information again as we enter October and November.

“It is not unusual for California to have large fires in the late fall. This is the peak season for "Santa Ana" winds, which is the local name for dry downslope winds. In California, they blow from east to west and as they move downhill, they compress due to increased atmospheric pressure, which causes them to be hot and dry. The result is that vegetation that has been drying for most of the summer becomes even drier from the desiccating winds.  

So if ignitions happen, fire can move very quickly. These downslope winds have been clocked up to 70 mph at times. As with "fire seasons" in general, the fall Santa Ana season has become longer. In 2017, the Thomas fire in Southern California was actively burning in December.” 

A CAL FIRE spokesman says in the LA Times article, “With this beautiful weather, people are getting complacent,” and that, “it’s important for residents to remain vigilant, keeping their 'go bags' ready and their vehicles’ gas tanks full.”