It has been a while since Central and Northern Ca have had a wet warm spring. The most obvious result is that the annual grasses are much more abundant, however this winter spring pattern produces many other effects directly related to fire behavior and associated fire line safety as well as suppression tactics. I was in the Lake Almanor area last week and went up to a small lake at 5K elevation. The manzanita was in full bloom at the end of June! Some small snow patches were still present. In the North Bay where I live the creeks are still flowing when continuous flow usually stops in May. Yesterday I watched a grass fire in the east bay running a steep hill with wind and the smoke was mostly white and it struggled to jump single blade mid slope roads. The take away is that in drought years it has been game on by July . This year there is still lots of live fuel moisture significantly impacting fire behavior particularly in northerly, shaded and lower drainage areas. But this will change at some point this season starting in the foot hills and moving up in elevation. The concern is that folks on the line use current fire behavior as their base line for the season and there will be quite a surprise later in the season and surprises on the line are never good. It would be very helpful for SA and Safety if folks would post changes in fire behavior and fuel conditions they observe in their respective areas. LCES, 10’s and 18’s do no good if the information applied is inaccurate. Stay safe all.
The same could be said for fuels in Southern California. We’re just not there yet, but as always we will be soon enough. The high pressure that is forecasted to set up for next week should speed things up a bit. The desert interfaces have been ready to go though. And there has been activity in those areas to show that.
The other thing to consider is the weather has been cooler than normal. Coming up on mid July and there have been only a few 100 degree days scattered mostly in the north state. This reminds me of one of those years where everyone keeps looking for fire season ‘to get going’, but never quite does. The atmosphere just doesn’t seem right and I think Fall will be here sooner than later. Two years of wickedly out of control fire seasons gets replaced with a tranquil normal year.
Very true and that has been my experience as well. But occasionally a Severe FWX pattern come in and we have a dangerous fire or two. 1991 was a slow year, nothing seemed to get up and run for any period of time. then on October 19th a rekindle sparked the Oakland Hills Fire. 28 died and over 3,200 dwellings destroyed and many forget it rained the next day. So while we are due for a slow season don’t count on it until Christmas.
From South ops this morning
“IA may climb to moderate or approaching heavy levels from July 10th into the following
“it’s not over till its over”
We’re going to have the fuel every year. Timing will change, but will boil down to how many stupid people do stupid things.
I was hoping this wold stay about fuel and weather condition changes in local areas so everyone can have an idea where different areas are regarding burning conditions. The FBANS on the old blog used to post very current information almost daily. Monthly outlooks, live fuel moisture readings and observations that experience tell you things are changing that is helpfull to SA.
Nothing matters without the start
LA County has had one of the best fuel monitoring programs for many years. This page shows the FM and trends but also the fuel type. Critical levels for Chamise is very different than say manzanita. Depending on the reference Chamise is between 58 and 68% or lower and Manzanita is 80 to 90%, I believe gamble oak is even higher. So be certain you are talking apples to apples when comparing FM and where critical levels are. The best definition of critical FM in live fuels is the point where the fire behavior characteristics are more like dead fuel than live. Also remember that in chaparral there is always a dead component to the fuel bed.
Burning conditions after many years of drought can be deceiving. It may take years for the vegetation to fully recover, so while fuel moistures might be up now, they may drop drastically once it dries out for the summer/fall and go back to critical levels relatively fast. Some areas may not even have live fuel moisture recovery much at all. So come fall we may just a have an inordinate amount of dry fuel.
While you are right on that there is more light fuel this year and it will dry out eventually, so if we have a sever FWX pattern it will be a huge issue, this light fuel bed can also continue over to next season and provide continuous ground fuel in the event of a drought this coming winter. None annual live fuels by definition have to have fuel moisture recovery and all the signs I see point to elevated live fuel moisture levels at this point in the summer. Areas with diseased or drought stressed will not recover as well as a healthy plant/tree but the trend is way up this year. The drought cycle has produced a large dead component in many live stands from chaparral to timber so even if the live fuels are moist, it is the dead fuel that drive the fire front until live fuels drop below critical when they begin to burn like dead fuels. The key is paying attention to all the fuel conditions so you can better predict fire behavior and match tactics and maintain safety.
The fish fire is a good example of what you are talking about with the high dead fuel component.