Environment & Science

Angeles National Forest lowers fire danger level, but warns of lingering risk

Sunset as seen from Highway 2 in the Angeles National Forest.
Sunset as seen from Highway 2 in the Angeles National Forest.
Nancy via Flickr Creative Commons

Angeles National Forest officials lowered the area’s fire danger level from “Very High” to “High” on Wednesday. After a series of devastating wildfires this past summer, Angeles Fire Chief Robert Garcia said in a statement that the forest’s vegetation is soaking up moisture, thanks to this week's storms.

But even with the rain, the danger of a wildfire lurks. The various plants – grasses, brush and trees – absorb moisture at different rates, Nathan Judy, spokesman for the Angeles National Forest, told KPCC. Grasses have absorbed several inches of rain, but trees and brush remain dry due to their tough exterior, he added.

“We’re not out of the woods just yet,” he said. “We’re letting folks know that yes, there is more moisture in the vegetation, but we still have a fire threat on the forest.”

“High” is the third-highest ranking on the forest’s fire danger scale and carries several fire restrictions, according to the park’s fire danger scale. Activities such as the use of fireworks, wood or charcoal fires, stoves and discharging firearms remain prohibited.A detailed list of restricted activities can be found here.

The Marek Fire in early November 2016 was one of the last fires in the area. 

A photo of the Marek Fire in the Angeles National Forest. Last November, it burned less than 100 acres. Officials say fires like this are still possible, even with this week's storms.
A photo of the Marek Fire in the Angeles National Forest. Last November, it burned less than 100 acres. Officials say fires like this are still possible, even with this week's storms.
NBC L.A.

The last decrease in fire danger level was in November, shortly after the Marek Fire. Fire management officials downgraded the forest's level from “Extreme” (the scale’s highest ranking) to “Very High,” according to the Forest Service's website.

Factors such as weather conditions, vegetation moisture and firefighting staffing/equipment needs determine when fire danger levels change, Judy said, adding that additional storms could lower the fire danger level another notch — depending on how much it rains.

The rain was a good thing for firefighters, he said, but the cycle of fire danger in the area continues. 

“We’re in an oxymoron,” he said. “When it rains, you get a lot of growth that happens because of the rain. That then adds more fuels [for fire].”

The Angeles National Forest updates fire conditions and storm warnings on its website.

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