WeatherFire Watch


Central Coast experiencing fire conditions typical for June

The Central Coast hasn't seen any significant rain since the end of December
Posted at 4:09 PM, Mar 14, 2022

Fire officials are concerned about how quickly the Hollister Fire spread in Santa Barbara County.

The Central Coast hasn't seen any significant rain since the end of December.

Fire officials say that this record-breaking dry streak is now signaling an early start to fire season.

The wind-whipped Hollister Fire forced evacuations on the Gaviota Coast over the weekend.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is warning that this sort of fire activity is not normal for March.

"All of that valuable rain that we received in December, the benefit of that has come and gone. Our vegetation has been drying out over the last 10 weeks," said Capt. Daniel Bertucelli, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesperson.

A lack of rain, record-high temperatures and offshore winds are only making the situation worse.

"Now, we're seeing fires starting throughout the State of California," Bertucelli said. "Specifically in Santa Barbara, they're burning with a fire behavior that's more typical of a June fire rather than a March."

So, what's causing fire to spread so quickly, this early in the year?

A fire expert at Cal Poly says that fuel moisture is dropping to levels typically not seen until June.

"Right now, we are really, really low in the shrub fuel moisture and it's really carrying these fires," said Christopher Dicus, Professor of Wildland Fire and Fuels Management at Cal Poly. "Even in the green grass there's dead components down below that's going to be able to carry this fire and we need some rain in a bad, bad way."

Grass and shrubland on the Gaviota Coast are now drying out at a rapid pace.

"Chaparral, it's either on, or it's off. It either won't ignite or it will burn with high intensity, fast rate of spread," Dicus said. "At present, it's burning erratically already and it's just gonna get worse throughout the season as we go farther and farther without any sort of rain."

Fire experts are now warning of another busy fire season.

"We are already very far ahead of schedule for the summer which is kind of boding ill. Everything's setting up for another nightmare scenario in California," Dicus concluded.

Central Coast firefighters, in the meantime, are preparing to fight fires locally and across California this summer.