East Bay firefighters concerned about dry fuel in winter

Firefighters in the San Francisco Bay Area are getting very worried about the dry conditions and lack of rain this winter.
January 13, 2014 10:21:17 PM PST
There are wildfire worries with these bone-dry conditions we have and the wind gusts have been strong enough to topple trees. Fire crews are issuing a warning this week.

A red flag warning was issued at 10 p.m. Monday and will be in effect until Thursday morning. So far things are a lot calmer than they were earlier in the day. One Berkeley neighbor's tree split in two with the biggest part crashing into the second story of the house next door. No one was hurt, but it has firefighters wondering what else these winds can do.

"It hadn't really crashed through the roof, but has landed on our roof," said Berkeley resident Anil Ananthaswamy.

The East Bay wasn't even under a red flag warning, but trees were already blowing down around 3:30 p.m. on Monday. Two trees fell in one Berkeley neighborhood.

"I could hear the tree kind of breaking and I felt something was going to happen. I looked out of the window and by then it had," said Ananthaswamy.

The winds were even worse Sunday night with gusts up to 50 mph.

"But then I realized, as I listened a little more closely, that it wasn't rain and it was actually just wind... and it was really windy. It was so noisy it sounded like a rain storm," said Berkeley resident Julia Chen.

But it wasn't raining and that's the problem. The high winds combined with the dry weather and crackling grass has the East Bay under a red flag warning in the middle of what's supposed to be the rainy season.

"Having no significant rainfall in the middle of January is something I've never seen before," said firefighter Sean Anderson from the East Bay Regional Fire Department. He said all it takes is a spark from a vehicle to ignite a dangerous fire. "A piece of chain hanging from underneath a vehicle and as it goes down the road it causes sparks, hitting the asphalt."

Add a high wind gust and you have a situation that can blow quickly out of control.


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