Southern California fire season predicted to be normal

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Dry grasses surround a sign in Kagel Canyon that encourages home owners to clear vegetation that could fuel a wildfire from around their properties near Los Angeles, California.

Despite winter rains that left a lot of vegetation, Southern California’s fire chiefs expect a relatively “normal” fire season this year.

The wheat-colored, dry-looking hillsides that surround Diamond Bar don’t tell the whole story. We’ve had a lot of rain this year. Fire chiefs from throughout the region say that, combined with forecasts of average weather, should mean a “normal” fire season.

"It’s left us with a more vigorous grass crop," says Cal Fire southern region chief, Dale Hutchinson, describing the effects of rain in the Inland Empire. "And those of you that have had to do your weed abatement understand what I’m talking about. We’ve had to be very tenacious to do our weed abatement around our dwellings and our improvements. But also, in our Eastern parts California, we’ve had a lot of grass and we’ve already had significant fire activity out in the Eastern portions of LA, Riverside and San Diego counties and San Bernardino County."

Ken Pimlott, acting director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says that 400 more fires have broken out across the state than had occurred by this time last year. Though the number is high, the extra moisture means trees and other heavier fuels are less likely to burn, so fires can be extinguished quickly, so the total number of acres burned is about the same as in previous years. The fire chiefs say that’s why it’s all the more important to make sure your home is fire-ready by clearing weeds and brush away from buildings and clearing out rain gutters.

Fire chiefs met in Diamond Bar outside Los Angeles to strategize for the coming wildfire season, which is predicted to be average. The state forestry department is grappling with a $56 million budget reduction that will result in fire engines being sent out with crews of three instead of four.

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