For a second straight year, California fires & acreage burned are more than double the average. Severe drought conditions in Northern California have led to a vast majority of the acreage burned in the state. But, as the fall wears on wildfire activity also tends to shift its impact to the Southern part of the state. Interestingly, only handful of large fires and a mere 3.4% of the State’s total acreage has burned in Southern California (year-to-date). Conversely, over 2 million of the acreage tally so far in the state has burned north of Fresno.
Santa Ana Season in Southern California
Next week marks the beginning of fall with the equinox and RedZone’s annual reminder of Santa Ana season. The perennial wind events have led to some of the fastest growing and most damaging fires in the country’s history. The fire weather outlook we referenced last week showed “normal” wildfire potential for Southern California through December. But, “normal” for Southern California is dry wind events and fast moving fires that cause rampant evacuations across Southern California. Despite the lack of a fire activity in comparison to Northern California, this is the time of year where acres can get added to the tally. Sometimes, all at once and in a hurry. Not surprisingly, research shows warmer annual temperatures and climate change are not going to help their frequency and intensity.
Offshore Winds in the Forecast
Fire weather conditions in many areas of Southern California will be elevated this week due to extremely dry fuels. The National Weather Service forecast includes:
“Brisk winds during late afternoons and early evenings through Thursday for favored pockets of mountain passes into adjacent deserts. This will lift fire weather conditions close to critical for a few hours each day. Winds will be lighter Friday through Monday. Offshore flow and Santa Ana winds may set up Tuesday morning. Humidity should fall below 15 percent across deserts, mountains and inland valleys.”
Although the northeast winds do not appear very strong or long lasting, this is the first such event this fall.