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Water Issues and Drought

Peak fire season poses potential challenges for Central Coast Cal Fire crews

This week marks the start of High Fire Season in California.

Even with the rainfall California saw this winter, the effects of significant drought remain a challenge. Central Coast Cal Fire crews are increasing resources this week to prepare for the dry months ahead.

San Luis Obispo Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Lee said crews are brushing up on drills and the organization is reaching out to the public about fire preparedness for their homes and vehicles.

“One less spark means one less devastating fire in another community in California,” said Lee.

Lee said many fires in California start from a vehicle spark, including last year’s Cuesta Fire, which burned nearly 2,500 acres in Northern San Luis Obispo County in August.

He said the rain California saw this season is a good thing, but several years of drought has resulted in a "tremendous amount of dead trees."

"We’re seeing brush fields that aren’t dormant anymore, they’re just dead,” he said.  

Lee said now that we’ve received close to average rainfall, there’s a good grass crop, providing what’s called “ladder fuel.”

“We want to be very careful that we don’t get any starts in these fine grasses, and allow that wind to push the grass fire into the brush and then it climbs up into the trees, causing a very devastating fire,” said Lee.  

Last summer, Southern California was more fortunate than Northern California in terms of large fires, and Lee said that’s partly due to luck and the weather.

This summer, the northern half of the state is doing much better in terms of drought, while the southern half is still very dry. Meanwhile, the Central Coast is still in the highest drought category. 

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