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Late-season rain expected to delay fire season temporarily

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Posted at 10:36 PM, May 01, 2023

Monday kicked off wildfire preparedness week as state and local agencies prepare for Summer.

The Central Coast’s rolling green hills are starting to slowly turn gold.

Fire experts say this will help delay fire season for a little bit longer.

Record-breaking rain means a lot of growth, and all green grasses that cover much of the region will eventually dry out.

“It’ll be really interesting in our part of the world because the amount of grasses that were able to grow up to waist height this year which is very unusual,” said Chris Dicus, a fire expert at Cal Poly.

Fire danger remains low right now, but the Santa Barbara County Fire Department is keeping a close eye on fuel moisture.

“May and beginning of June is when we would transition to high fire season and right now, we’re just kind of in a holding pattern watching these fuel moistures,” said Scott Safechuck, Public Information Officer for Santa Barbara County Fire.

Cal Poly’s fire expert says that forested areas are in relatively good shape and will take longer to dry out.

“I think our forests are really gonna be helped by the rain because fires—when they burn through there, it’s gonna be in the litter and the leaves,” explained Dicus.

But it’s a different story with grassy areas and hillsides covered in brush which will dry out and be able to catch fire much sooner.

“All it’s gonna take is a weekend with hot winds coming through and very rapidly. These grasses are gonna get cured and very readily carry fire into places we don’t want it to go,” said Dicus.

More rain in the forecast will push the start of fire season later into the year.

“Certainly, I don’t expect to see more growth of our grasses, but it’s gonna park fire season for a little bit,” said Dicus.

People who live in fire-prone areas are urged to take action now which means mowing tall grass and clearing defensible space around your home.

“The weather will dictate how much that fuel dries out or how low that fuel moisture gets,” said Safechuck. “As we all know, no matter how much rain we get, we still experience our fire seasons.”

Cal Fire is ramping up fuel reduction projects and increasing staffing across California to prepare for fire season.

Fire prevention efforts in Santa Barbara County will be the topic of a joint press between Santa Barbara County Fire and Cal Fire at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Santa Ynez.