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Four-month fire outlook released as West braces for extreme fire season

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Posted at 7:15 PM, May 02, 2022

Much of the west is bracing for what could be another catastrophic wildfire season, but what does this mean for the Central Coast?

From rapidly spreading fires in March to beneficial, late-season rain -- fire season may have been briefly put on hold, but it's knocking at our door once again.

"For the Central Coast, I was so excited to see the little bit of rain that we had unexpectedly a couple weeks ago," said Christopher Dicus, Professor of Wildland Fire and Fuels Management at Cal Poly.

That rain led to an improved fire season outlook.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fire danger is predicted to be near normal or slightly below normal for the Central Coast and Southern California.

Fire experts are still urging caution with summer fast approaching.

"We don't need to be deceived because when we have a normal fire season on the Central Coast, that means that we could have a catastrophic wildfire at any point," said Dicus. "That is the normal for the Central Coast."

CAL FIRE is switching to fire season mode in San Luis Obispo County. The agency is now equipped with nine wildland fire engines and four bulldozers. They also hired 54 seasonal firefighters at the beginning of April.

"Less than 100,000 acres burned statewide was kind of a normal thing years ago," said Adan Orozco, Public Information Officer for CAL FIRE SLO. "Now, the fires are a lot more intense, they're bigger."

"Local agencies are also preparing to send resources to Northern California, which is bracing for what could be another devastating fire season.

"A lot of agencies are recognizing that Northern California, it's going to be scary conditions for the rest of the year until we get some more rain," said Dicus.

So what is making Northern California more fire-prone than other parts of the state?

"On the Central Coast, we're used to having in this Mediterranean ecosystem, this normal period of drought that we have," said Dicus. "Northern California normally experiences a greater deal of rainfall, they just haven't been getting it. "

CAL FIRE SLO says it is ready to send resources to other parts of the state; however, there are limits.

"There's always a trickle effect of sending resources and also receiving resources in to fill behind," said Orozco. "We do have drawdown levels where we say we can't send anything out because we're stripped."

CAL FIRE has suspended backyard burning until the end of fire season in SLO County.