Rainfall totals for the State of California are at 40% to 60% for the season. Totals for Santa Barbara County are at 55% of normal. This has had an effect on the live fuel moisture levels. This follows a 2012 season that saw dry fuels, well below historical average. Live fuel moisture levels for the region are currently at levels normally expected in June (two months ahead of schedule).
During the months of April – July, less than normal rainfall is predicted. Temperatures for the region during the months of July – September are predicted to be above normal.
Due to lower than normal live fuel moisture levels, grass fire activity is expected earlier in the season, with the potential for large fires beginning in June.
Red Flag Warnings
The National Weather Service provides daily fire weather forecasts in close coordination with local fire agencies. The Red Flag Warning Program enables firefighting agencies to manage critical resources and prepare appropriate suppression responses for protecting life and property. Red Flag Warnings are typically issued within 24 hours of an impending critical fire weather event.
A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can create extreme fire behavior.
Fire Weather Watch
A Fire Weather Watch is a separate but less imminent forecast. It alerts fire and land management agencies of weather and critically dry fuels that could lead to dangerous wildfires and extreme fire behavior. Fire Weather Watches are typically issued generally 12 to 72 hours in advance of potential critical fire weather conditions.
Because they often begin in the late afternoon or early evening, Sundowner Winds are typically associated with a rapid rise in temperature and decrease in relative humidity. Sundowners are particularly dangerous during wildfire season because the air heats and dries as it descends from the mountains to the sea. Gale force hot, dry winds can make firefighting impossible.
Clearance around all structures in the wildland area shall be 100 feet or greater. Within the 100-foot perimeter, all brush, flammable vegetation, or combustible growth shall be modified so that a wildfire burning under average weather conditions would be unlikely to ignite the structure. Defensible space is key to defending structures from a wildfire.
Hazard Reduction Program
Each year, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department sends notices to abate fire hazards to the owners of all properties in county fire jurisdiction that potentially pose a fire hazard. These notices indicate the ongoing defensible space requirements. Property owners have approximately three weeks to meet the requirements outlined in the notice.
Ready! Set! Go! Program
Santa Barbara County residents are encouraged to continue to reduce flammable vegetation around their structures, property and roads. The Ready! Set! Go! Program, educates property owners about issues concerning defensible space and vegetation removal.
For additional information regarding the Ready! Set! Go! Program, Red Flag Warnings, Defensible Space, Vegetation Management and Safety Preparedness, please visit http://www.sbcfire.com .