LA Rain: Storms likely reduced risk of fire later this year

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Last week's rain in Southern California did more than just add a few inches to parched aquifers.

It also likely reduced the risk of wildfires later in the year, according to researchers.

Some rains can make fire season worse, because they encourage the growth of wild grasses. When these grasses later dry out, they are a perfect fuel for wildfires.

Related: KPCC's Fire Tracker

However, UC Riverside natural resource specialist Tom Scott says LA's recent downpour came late in the season, well past the prime grass-growing period usually in November and December.

“Every seed that could possibly germinate in some areas[...] actually did germinate and then it grew up and croaked," he said.

Fresh rainfall, he added, won't cause these grasses to revive and reproduce.

Fire ecologist Richard Minnich, also with UC Riverside, added that grasses left over from previous years will likely decompose due to mold brought on by the rains.

He said there will be very little fire fuel left on normally grassy hillsides.

"The fire hazard is going to be really low this coming year," he said of those areas.

As for chaparral, the mountain shrubs often associated with big fires. Scott says they will also benefit from last week's deep soaking.

That's because the rains were heavy enough to add water deep in the ground. Chaparral plants use a long root system to sip on this deep moisture during the dry summer months.

"The more water in this substrate... the less burnable those plants are going to be," Scott noted.

 

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