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Elevated Fire Danger In California As Drought Persists

Santa Barbara City Fire / Courtesy

The Sherpa Fire burns along Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County on June 16, 2016. The wildfire, in the Los Padres National Forest, was one of several wildfires that started in June throughout California.

Santa Barbara City Fire / Courtesy

The "dry season" in the western U.S. is not expected to bring any major changes to the level of drought, but four consecutive years of drought has increased wildfire concerns in California.

"Due to the onset of the West’s 'dry season,' changes to the region’s drought depiction during the summer months are usually minor, if any," the U.S. Drought Monitor reports Thursday.

"However, protracted short-term dryness - despite generally cooler-than-normal weather - has been noted along the northern Pacific Coast," the report says. "These more northerly coastal ranges typically receive some precipitation during the latter half of spring, and 60-day rainfall has tallied 35 to 60 percent of normal (deficits of 2 to 6 inches) from northwestern California to the Puget Sound."

062316 DROMON-U.S.

The hot weather intensified or expanded from Southern California and the Southwest for the 7-day period that ended June 21, with several record high temperatures set on various days.

The high temperatures, along with low humidity, created difficult conditions for firefighters working to contain several major wildfires in California. Cal Fire reports that on June 23, more than 4,600 firefighters were working to contain five large wildfires.

062316 DROMON-Heat Hazards

Looking ahead, the National Weather Service has issued a hazard statement for excessive heat from June 25-29, for an area that stretches over most of California, northwestern Nevada and southwest Arizona.

The drought has now stretched into a fifth consecutive year in California. A June 22 U.S. Forest Service report said that there are 66 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada, which adds more fuel to an already parched California.

062216 DEADTREES-P2The U.S. Forest Service is removing some of the 66 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada to reduce fuel for wildfires and for road safety. The agency says it has removed 80,000 trees so far. This view is in the Sequoia National Forest. U.S. Forest Service / Courtesy

 

U.S. Forest Service scientists expect to see "continued elevated levels of tree mortality during 2016 in dense forest stands, stands impacted by root diseases or other stress agents and in areas with higher levels of bark beetle activity."

062316 DROMON-Fire Risk July

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise shows the potential for wildland fire is "above normal" in July for portions of California, Western Nevada and in much of Arizona.

On June 23, there were 18 large, active, wildfires in 8 states covering more than 151,891 acres, according to the NIFC. More than 1.96 million acres have burned this year. 

062216 DEADTREES-Map