Emergency Officials Prepare for Wildfire Season Following Record-Setting Winter

MCCLELLAN PARK -- This year has set records for the amount of rain and snow that has fallen in the state but emergency officials say that won’t ease the fire danger in the state and, in fact, they say it could make it worse.

Last year at this time, there were already over a thousand wildfires in Cal Fire's jurisdiction. This year there have been 400 fewer fires thanks to a wetter spring.

Cal Fire says they had over 153 fires last week statewide, including in areas where that usually don’t have them because of those grasses that have grown so high and dried so quickly.

Nonetheless, fire officials are ramping up their fire prevention efforts.

"Fires are going to continue to grow and be big," said Cal Fire Director Thom Porter.

The National Guard has dedicated crews that clear fuels from the most vulnerable communities. The U.S. Forest Service is creating fire breaks to halt the spread of wildfires to protect property and habitat.

They are taking advantage of the cooler, moister conditions.

"The rain is wonderful and it gives a chance to kind of reset," Porter said. "But it grows grass and grass is like a fuse. As soon as everything else dries out, grass will carry fire right into the brush-covered landscape, the chaparral, and right into the forest."

There are still 147 million dead trees, which are after-effects of five years of drought.

"Those fires are able to run at a pace in condition,  which makes them more devastating, makes them more difficult to control and, usually, are very destructive," said U.S. Forest Service Deputy Regional Forester Tony Scardina.

The Office of Emergency Services says evacuating rural areas with small roads where there is one path in and out remains a problem. It says residents in fire-prone areas should get two or more escape routes mapped out and be ready to move quickly to minimize traffic jams.

It also says residents must take it upon themselves to make sure communications are in order so they can receive warnings and updates on fire conditions.

"People are used to dialing 911 and getting all these resources. And in a major event like we've been seeing, that is not a realistic expectation," said the Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci.

State agencies say people can learn how to get ready for an emergency by going to a new app and web resource called readyforwildfire.org where you can find checklists and ways to tie into fire updates in the area where they live.

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