Sonora, CA – Fire season is officially here, says Cal Fire, which reports its full complement of personnel and equipment is ready weeks earlier than normal due to the extended drought.
According to Cal Fire Unit Forester Adam Frese, the department’s assigned aircraft arrived last week at Columbia Air Attack Base, adjacent to Columbia Airport. “We have 21 engines, ten hand crews – five crews that are baseline camped in Tuolumne County and five crews at the Vallecito Conservation Camp in Calaveras County,” he states. Cal Fire usually has two bull dozers in place, Frese notes. But, “Right now, we have one ‘dozer – one is committed to a training academy — and at the airbase, we have Air TAC-440, two tankers. and Copter-404. So…everything that is going to be staffed up, is staffed up.”
Frese points out, “We, normally, see this [staffing] later in the season but we did adjust it earlier in the year due to the dry conditions.” As previously reported, currently, live fuel moisture levels of chaparral shrubs are more in line with what he typically finds in mid-July during a non-drought year. “The past few years have been a little different,” he acknowledges. “We’ve even had fires…over the winter period where we typically don’t have fires.” Frese fully expects that the next set of vegetation moisture readings, due June 1, will continue to show that conditions are further sinking into hazardous zone levels “Definitely, everyone [should] note that fire conditions are hotter and drier — prepare for a long busy season.”