Damp May delays spring fires
A slightly damper, cooler spring reduced the chance for wildfires so far this year. But at best, early May moisture has just delayed the potential for wildfires into June, said East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini.
“We’re still expecting some pretty severe fire conditions,” he said. “It’s just going to come a little bit later. It will push it back more into June. The same conditions we were experiencing last year in late April and all the way through May we’ll see in June this year.”
Changes in weather are making the concept of fire season obsolete, Carlini said.
“We’re starting to treat wildland fire as a year-around proposition,” he said. “I don’t see where we have a fire season by any specific date, relative to climactic changes going on.”
He said that the district is using what quiet time it has left to prepare for the fires, including completing certifications and maintaining fire equipment.
Last year’s fires cost the East Fork Fire District $1.2 million to fight, which drained the district’s emergency fund.
“It took us 11 years to put that money away,” Carlini said. “Last year exhausted that fund.”
“We’re spending more time conducting simulations internally, and we’ve put together an exhaustive directive on what we’re going to do when we have a wildland fire. We’re working with our regional cooperators. All those agreements are in place.”
County commissioners will be asked at their June 6 meeting to approve a $90,000 agreement with the state for a wildland protection plan.
“It limits the liabilities of local governments that might otherwise have to pay for these high-dollar fires,” he said. “It’s sort of an insurance for the district. The state will also muster a larger presence on the ground firefighting capacity, handcrews, seasonal personnel and air resources.”
Working with local, state and federal fire agencies is how the district plans to get through what may be another major fire season.
“The Forest Service is deployed in Alpine View, and the BLM is set up in the Fish Springs area,” he said. “We work hand-in-hand with our neighboring fire agencies. We wouldn’t be able to make it through the season without a regional approach to this.”
The National Weather Service issued a drought report that indicated fire danger will be particularly high in the forests of the Sierra Nevada thanks to drier than normal fuels.
The possibility of dry lightning from summer thunderstorms could trigger fires in the heavy timber, the weather service warned.