History Tells Us That Fire Season is Just Getting Started in Northern California

The past few weeks have been very successful for fire officials as the largest and most damaging fires currently burning in Northern California have seen dramatic increases in containment. The North, Hirz, Kerlin and Snell Fires have all recently completed 100 percent containment. The Mendocino Complex Fire still sits at 98 percent containment and the Delta Fire is up to 81 percent containment.

There certainly is reason for optimism during the final months of the devastating 2018 fire season, but caution must be used when looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. The question has to be asked – what’s next?

Historically, the biggest and most destructive fires in California happen after September 1. In fact, nine of the top ten most destructive fires in California’s history have occurred from September to December. This is due to the long drying period over the summer months creating more dangerous fuel sources in forested areas. The only exception to the list was this summer’s devastating Carr Fire, which started in July.

Most notably, last year’s Tubbs Fire in Sonoma started on October 8 and burned 5,643 structures, including 22 fatalities. It was the most destructive fire in California’s history.

Here are the other notable NorCal fires that made the top ten in destructive California fires:

  • Tunnel Fire – Alameda County – 2,900 structures destroyed in October 1991
  • Valley Fire – Lake County – 1,955 structures destroyed in September 2015
  • Nunns Fire – Sonoma County – 1,355 structures destroyed in October 2017
  • Jones Fire – Shasta County – 954 structures destroyed in October 1999

This fire season has already been historic. The Mendocino Complex Fire is the largest fire (acres burned) in California’s history. The Carr Fire is the sixth most destructive fire (structures burned) in California’s history. And over a millions acres have burned across 12 fires in Northern California since July.

The larger fires (in acreage) in California’s history typically occur between July and August, but it’s the fires in September and October that see the most structure damage. So as the firefighters get some much needed and deserved rest during a slowing period of the current fires, it’s so important during this time to stay vigilant in preventative measures.

CAL FIRE has some tips for fire safety during times of high risk:

1. Equipment Use Safety

  • Never mow or trim dry grass on a Red Flag Warning Day. (Mow before 10 a.m. on a day when its not hot and windy).
  • Never use lawn mowers in dry vegetation.
  • Spark arresters are required in wildland areas on all portable gasoline powered equipment.

2. Campfire Safety

  • Before starting a campfire, make sure you have a campfire permit and that they are permitted on the land you are visiting.
  • Afterwards, ensure that your campfire is properly extinguished.

3. Defensible Space

  • Residents should make sure they have 100 feet of defensible space around structures.
  • Clear dead weeds and vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  • Trim branches 6 feet from the ground.

4. Vehicle

  • Never pull over in dry grass.
  • Ensure trailer chains don’t drag on the ground.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained.
  • Have proper tire pressure to avoid driving on wheel rim.
  • Never let your brake pads wear too thin.

5. Other

  • Make sure cigarette butts are properly extinguished.
  • Never burn landscape debris like leaves or branches on NO Burn Days or when it’s windy or areas where not allowed.
  • Target shoot only in approved areas, use lead ammunition only, and never at metal targets.
  • Report any suspicious activities to prevent arson.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California
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