Dry conditions in the Sierra Front could see above average fire potential starting in July, according to an outlook issued Wednesday by the National Interagency Fire Center.
Firefighters conducting a controlled burn near Indian Creek Reservoir found brush burned very easily in dry conditions at 6,000 feet.
Severe drought conditions may prevent large fires in the eastern deserts by reducing the growth of annual grasses. But for the Sierra Front’s heavy fuel areas, the fire center report said two years of drought combined with a strong wind event ahead of a cold front could result in a significant fire.
Last year most of the fires fought by the East Fork Fire District were located in the Pine Nut Mountains.
In his annual report, Fire Chief Tod Carlini reported that 17,000 acres burned in the township during 2012, costing $10 million to suppress. The local share of that cost was $1 million.
“In mid-July, parts of the Sierra Front will increase to above normal significant fire potential in July and August,” the interagency report warned. “The main concern is the growth of new fuels in the spring and the mid- to upper-slope timber areas due to long-term drought. Above normal conditions may develop in parts of the Sierra Front by July and August as fuels cure, soil moisture remains very low and the drought pattern continues.”
The report says portions of California could see the onset of fire season in May if dry conditions persist.
As if on cue, the 6,393-acre Panther fire started on Wednesday 20 miles west of Lake Almanor and was burning near the edge of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Smoke from the fire is wafting over the Sierra and into Western Nevada. The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to the California Division of Forestry. Red flag warnings have been issued across Northern California.
Forecasters were predicting thunderstorms this weekend in northeast California and spreading into Nevada on Monday and Tuesday.
According to the National Weather Service, mainly dry storms were expected, along with gusty and erratic winds during the weekend. The storms will become wetter on Monday and Tuesday.
The theme for 2013 Nevada Wildfire Awareness Week, which kicked off Saturday, is “Reduce the Fuel – Reduce the Risk!”
“Reducing the fuel around homes and other structures is critical to survival during a wildfire,” said Ed Smith, a natural resource specialist, and director of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire Program. “Residents must be proactive, monitoring and removing appropriate fuels year-round.”
Smith said weather, topography and fuel are the three factors that control wildfire behavior.
“Of these three factors, only the fuel can be altered in order to reduce the wildfire risk,” Smith said. “That’s why we continue to focus our efforts on helping homeowners to know how to manage the vegetation and fuels around their homes.”
While no major events are planned for the week in Douglas County, Mormon Station State Historic Park in Genoa will be hosting Wildfire Awareness and Prevention Day 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. May 18.