Fire danger increases across Bay Area this week as drier, windier conditions intensify

Monday, May 16, 2022
Wildfire danger increases across Bay Area this week
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Bay Area wildfire danger increases through the week as drier, windier conditions intensify throughout drought-stricken region.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Warmer than average temperatures fill our Bay and Inland neighborhoods Tuesday through this weekend and with each day our wildfire risk increases, according to ABC7 News meteorologist Mike Nicco.

Each dry day takes more moisture away from our vegetation and makes it more susceptible to critical fire conditions.

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Nicco says you'll notice our hills and mountains lose more of their healthy green color as the transition to brown accelerates.

He also watching a potential windy offshore event Thursday through Saturday.

Gusty dry winds heighten our critical fire conditions and increase our vulnerability to wildfires.

Nicco advises doing what you can in the next few days to mitigate this.

VIDEO: East Bay firefighters cancel prescribed burn due to windy conditions

With heightened fire danger this week Contra Costa County fire officials decided to cancel a planned prescribed burn in Rodeo on Monday morning due to the wind.

"It is frustrating but we have it scheduled for all week, so hopefully we can get the area done by end of the week," said Fire Marshal Chris Bachman.

He says the prescribed burns are good training exercises for new hand crew members and are a good prevention measure.

"It reduces that fuel in that open space by providing a nice break between the houses and the open space, providing extra defensible space between the houses and the open field."

He says if you see smoke this week along I-80 in Rodeo, it will be from their controlled burn.

"You will be seeing a lot of smoke in the area, don't be alarmed. We are out there, it is under control, we are doing it in a safe manner and if the winds or weather stop cooperating with us, we will postpone it until the next day."

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He says they don't have much time left, though, for these burns. Come June, he says they are too busy and don't want their resources tied up in control burns.

Even though he predicts June is when their services will be in high demand, CAL FIRE now says we should not refer to it as "fire season" anymore, that it is now a year-round threat. The Contra Costa County Fire Marshal agrees.

"We are seeing it become year-round. Over the last four months, we have noticed a 25% increase in our exterior fires over last year. We have already run over 500 exterior fires in the first four months of this year, so we would agree what we call fire season has become a year-round event," Bachman said.

A professor in Environmental Studies at Cal State East Bay said prescribed burns are a great way to prepare for wildfires.

"We have the capacity to create conditions that are more resilient. If we use prescribed fire, if we try and limit the amount of construction in areas where there haven't been homes before, all these things make our communities stronger against wildfire," Professor Tony Marks-Block.

"If you burn regularly, you will get lower intensity fires that are easier to control. Who doesn't want that", Marks-Block asked.

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"Prescribed fire is fundamental. If it is windy today, hopefully, tomorrow in Contra Costa County they'll be able to burn," he said.

He said this wind is just another condition likely brought on by climate change.

"I have read studies that have observed there are potentially increased dry wind events - these may be increasing. So yes, some climatologists are observing these are more frequent and a result of climate change," Marks-Block said.

There is a website, riskfactor.com, that will tell you if your home is located in a high-risk area. The fire marshal told us all Californians should assume they need to be ready.

"We are seeing it across our jurisdiction, not just in our high fire severity zone. We are seeing external fires in all of our jurisdiction so we are asking all of our residents to do fire mitigation work," Bachman said.

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