Fire Alert Levels High
With triple-digit temperatures and sundowner winds gusting at 40 miles an hour, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for Santa Barbara County this week, a full Red Flag alert. Firefighting agencies have deployed additional helicopters, dozers, crews, and air tankers to attack any flames that might pop up, but experts express concern that the dramatically low moisture level of backcountry vegetation will make such fires extremely hard to put out. According to Forest Service spokesperson Andrew Madsen, plant moisture levels have dipped to 57 percent; the 10-year average for this time of year is 60 percent. That’s also the tipping point below which brush becomes extremely volatile, and, said Madsen, “resistant to fire control efforts.” To the extent there’s good news, it’s that the drought has kept backcountry vegetation from growing much in the past three years. The bad news is there are far more dead trees, shrubs, and vegetation because of the drought. Thus far this year, the number of reported fires has been lower than average, and they’ve been put out quickly.