Does All This Rain Mean the Golden State Will Get Some Relief This Coming Fire Season?

The short answer … who knows?

It’s been a wet winter for California. Some may even say too wet. The threat of mudslides in burn areas, flooding in Sonoma Country, obliterated roads near Idyllwild, these are just a few of the headaches that have sprung up since heavy downpours started to descend in January and February. The upside of all the rain? Healthy snowpacks in the Sierras and beyond, and reservoirs at or near capacity. That bodes well for a state that recently suffered one of the longest droughts in years. But how will the rain play into this year’s upcoming fire season?

Unfortunately, it’s not a cut and dry answer.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Despite the rain and snow this winter, Cal Fire is already warning that the wet weather will create an abundance of grass fuels that could burn easy and fast. Conversely, during dry winters, the agency often warns of arid brush and forests that can lead to dangerous fires.

“In some ways, Cal Fire can always be right and always be wrong,” says meteorologist Jan Null, who has been analyzing the data for more than a decade.

“California’s Mediterranean climate means there’s no rain over the summer months, so the risk of fires always climbs through the summer and fall. And anticipating the threat based on the winter weather is tricky, said Steve Leach, a Bureau of Land Management meteorologist who helps create predictive modeling that Cal Fire leans on.

“There are rules of thumb. A lot of the story is yet to be written,” Leach said. “There’s no exact way to tell. Now you just look at the potential.”

You can read more about fire predictions and a side-by-side graph of California’s precipitation and acres burned since 1970 here.

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