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Cal Fire tips on preventing wildfires
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, about 95 percent of California wildfires are human-caused.
Much of California will be at greater-than-usual risk from fire this week, and into mid-fall.
Fire weather watches are in effect this weekend throughout most of Northern California, and meteorologists expect to issue watches for parts of Southern California next week when temperatures soar into triple digits.
Temperatures could reach 100 degrees in places along the Sacramento Valley floor and inland Southern California, and up to 110 degrees in desert regions like Palm Springs/Sonoran Desert. Heat coupled with 20-mph winds and 30-mph wind gusts will drop humidity levels as low as 10% throughout most of inland Southern California, the Sacramento Valley, the Western Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay Area to South Santa Clara County.
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That dry weather could feed wildfires already burning throughout the state. Areas affected include Mendocino County where the August Complex is burning, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the SQE Complex burns near Visalia and the Creek Fire near Fresno.
“The outlook predicts warmer than average temperatures through November and little precipitation,” said meteorologist Alex Tardy at the National Weather Service in San Diego. “(Conditions) remain critically dry and sensitive to any wildfire starting at (this) time.”
California has been dealing with an outbreak of fires sparked by dry lightning and driven by winds in a dry, hot year. As of Thursday, firefighters were battling 26 major wildfires burning throughout the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 8,000 wildfires burned more than 3.6 million acres; 26 people have died and at least 6,700 structures were destroyed.
The Weather Service this week issued a fire weather watch for much of Northern and Central California. It includes the Western Sacramento Valley, the Sierra Nevada foothills, and the San Francisco Bay Area stretching from areas north of San Francisco to the southern part of Santa Clara County.
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Conditions will likely worsen next week, said warning coordination meteorologist Brian Garcia at the National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration office in Monterey. He expects the San Francisco Bay Area’s fire weather watch to “be upgraded to a Red Flag Warning, if models continue to show gusty winds over the hills.”
The NWS’ Sacramento Valley forecast included wind and temperatures in the 90s starting Saturday, with triple digits possible on Sunday. That heat is making dry conditions even drier, said meteorologist Hannah Chandler-Cooley in Sacramento.
This first week of fall is likely a harbinger of what is to come, said meteorologist Alex Tardy at NWS in San Diego. “The outlook predicts warmer than average temperatures through November and little precipitation. (Conditions) remain critically dry and sensitive to any wildfire starting at (this) time.”
April heatwaves, and winds — warm Santa Anas in June and winds flowing up into Northern California from the Bay Area — started to dry the state earlier than most seasons, Tardy said.
Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Escondido and 121 degrees in Chino. That heat, followed by little rain and more dry Santa Ana winds, caused drought expansion in the Southeast this summer.
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“August was the hottest (month) on record for the entire state,” Tardy said. Humidity levels dropped to all-time lows.
Now fire weather risk is extreme, and will likely stay that way this fall, he said.
For more information on weather in your area go to the ’s interactive weather map at www.weather.gov.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.