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Answering a question from over on the BD CERT Facebook page.

posted Jul 28, 2015, 5:17 PM by Joe Christy   [ updated Jul 28, 2015, 5:19 PM ]
Five days ago, Larry Azzaro asked for a comparison between now and the times of the Martin and Lockheed Fires. Here's what I said today when we had a cancellation on the Warrenella Shaded Fuel Break and I don't have any deadlines to meet.

We're not yet down to the *live* fuel moisture levels of the Martin & Lockheed fires. Dead fuels are a totally different story. Yesterday I spoke to Chris Sphorer, head of the resource group of State Parks for our district, who have done more prescribed fires in our immediate vicinity than anyone I know. He said that a couple of months ago, on those unusual cool damp foggy days this spring when they did a prescribed burn down by the lookout tower in Henry Cowell, they had 10,000 hour fuels completely consumed in roughly two days. That's big logs (10,000 hour fuel means it takes more than a year for them to reach equilibrium with the relative humidity in the air), and in low-intensity fires - 1 acre plots  with short flame lengths.

The difference between the past fires and now, in terms of weather, is that we haven't yet gotten as hot as it was those days and we haven't yet had a "wind-event", i.e. strong winds from the northeast. We are having those offshore winds now, but so far they've been mild. I can tell you that tanoaks and madrones, which are drought-deciduous, started losing their leaves already in July (usually takes until mid August for that to start, even last year when the fire season never ended during the prior winter). Pines, Doug fir and even redwoods are dying around here. Hence even more 10,00 hour fuels falling on top of the receptive fuel bed of dropped leaves.

Finally two bits of not-so-cheery news: 1) It is windier to our north and the Wragg fire by Lake Berryessa blew out today, which that means that all the CAL FIRE strike teams from our unit, who moved north from there to Humboldt when it looked like the Wragg fire was approaching containment, are going back to the Wragg fire again instead of coming home. 2) NWS is talking about chances of lightning  over the weekend.

We do have a few CAL FIRE cover strike teams filling in and local agencies are on high alert. During the Lockheed Fire especially, we were lucky that a) all our unit's strike teams were in County when it broke out, and b) whatever they do at Lockheed, the Federal government didn't want burned over, so the fire was almost instantly at the highest national priority.

Despite the threat of lightning, humans acting out of ignorance, incompetence, or sheer stupidity are still far and away the most dangerous ignition source. For heaven's sake *BE* *CAREFUL*.