Heat wave enflames fire season | SierraSun.com

Heat wave enflames fire season

A heat wave expected on Wednesday will worsen western Nevada County fire conditions that already are deemed as dangerous as in mid-summer.

The National Weather Service Monday said an unusual high pressure system will boost temperatures into the 80s and 90s Wednesday through Sunday. Wind gusts up to 20 mph on Wednesday will only add to what is shaping up to be a long and arduous fire season in Northern California.

“We’ve already seen a number of debris (fire) escapes,” said Tim Fike, chief of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District.

“We had a two-acre fire two weeks ago that got into the canopy of the Ponderosa pines” on New Bloomfield Road just above Nevada City. “We shouldn’t see that this early.

“Any winds will dry things out quicker, and when we hit the 90s, it will be only worse,” Fike said. “It just feels like we’re a month ahead of normal.”

A fuels moisture report issued last week showed regular water levels for chemise shrubs, but manzanita is already at July dryness conditions, Fike said. The unexpected freeze in late April added to the danger by killing the manzanita plant tips.

The report also said large logs down on the forest floor are at a 14 percent water content scale now, and 11 percent is considered “kiln-dry,” Fike said.

Under the dry conditions, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s annual fire season staffing and equipment buildup was launched Monday.

The CalFire planes that battle blazes out of the Nevada County Airport will not be here until June 15, but fire stations are starting to build up staff, according to Brad Harris, chief of the agency’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer unit. He said rural homeowners’ protection is paramount this year.

“CalFire cannot stress enough that now is the time for all California residents to take action,” Harris said.

“Create defensible space around your homes, become involved in your local Fire Safe Council and be extra careful when recreating in our wildlands this summer.”

The defensible space law of 100 feet around rural homes will be enforced this summer, according to Nevada County Supervisor and former firefighter Hank Weston.

“The governor is getting serious,” Weston said of the governor’s announcement to stress fire prevention to the public.

“He’s told (CalFire) no messing around with that 100-foot requirement,” Weston said. “If they show up on the second inspection, and you haven’t done anything, they’ll cite you.”

The requirement calls for 100 feet of clearance of flammable vegetation from around a structure, according to Joanne Drummond, executive director of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County.

“That does not mean a ring of bare dirt,” Drummond said, but it does mean removing manzanita and other low-growing vegetation that can burn. Limbs hanging over buildings should also be trimmed, she said.

If you go to the Yuba River or other area streams this week to escape the heat, another danger awaits, according to the National Weather Service.

Streams already running strong and cold from the spring snowpack runoff are expected to become swifter because of the heat wave.

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