The 2012 "fire season" will officially begin at 8 a.m. Monday, and fire officials urge residents, especially those living or recreating in rural areas, to use caution as the state enters a period of increased risk for wildfires.
The state's final snow survey May 1 found the statewide snowpack water content is only 40 percent of normal. From January though April, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crews responded to more than 800 wildfires, nearly two and a half times the approximately 300 the agency responded to during the same period in 2011. This year's number also exceeds the five-year average of more than 600 wildfires for January through April, said Terri Mizuhara, spokeswoman for Cal Fire's Amador-El Dorado Unit.
So far this this month, she said, Cal Fire crews have responded to numerous small fires. Several in Amador and El Dorado counties have been escaped debris fires, Mizuhara said.
In response to the increased fire risk, Cal Fire's Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit announced that it will increase staffing levels and is staffing many of its fire stations around the clock.
Officials remind residents that maintaining defensible space is the best way to increase chances that a home will survive an oncoming wildfire.
To prepare a home for the fire season, they advise residents to:
Remove all flammable vegetation 30 feet from all structures.
In an additional 70 feet, space trees and plants away from each other.
Clear all needles and leaves from roofs, eaves and rain gutters.
Trim branches six feet from the ground.
Use trimming, mowing and power equipment before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
Landscape with fire-resistant plants.
Use fire-ignition-resistant building materials.