California is so hot and dry that not even soaking rain can ease fall fire peril.
“It’s a very difficult time for our firefighters,” said Lt. Scott Zickmeier of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which has been combating wildfires in the state since the 1980s.
“Very dry and very hot, with some low humidity and low winds, makes it difficult for us to handle,” Zickmeier said. “Unfortunately, we are battling some of the most damaging fires in a long time.”
The fires in California this fire season are in the western part of the state, and many have started along the coast. The fires are fueled by dry and hot conditions that make the flames burn hotter.
The winds, too, play a role.
“We have had, in the last couple of nights, lots of fog,” Zickmeier said. “We are battling with very high winds to fight these fires. They are very dry, so you can see the flames burn very slowly.”
The biggest fire to hit the state in recent years was the Tubbs Fire, which scorched more than 200,000 acres in Northern California in 2017. But that blaze was not the only challenge to the California firefighting effort this year. There were three blazes that burned a combined 549,000 acres, bringing the state’s total this year to over 100,000 acres.
And even with all that, just days before Thanksgiving, the state is not where it was last year.
There were only 10,000 acres burned in 2018, about half of what it burned that year.
The biggest fires so far this year have been in the Sierras and the Sierra Nevada.
“In the last several weeks, we have had several very large wildfires that have really changed the forecast for what is likely to happen next week,” Zickmeier said.