If there’s a mantra for this year’s fire season, it’s preparation.
That’s not to say that preparation isn’t the mantra for every fire season. It surely is. But it’s safe to say that this year is different. A set of conditions, years in the making, is converging all across the western states to create particularly worrisome predictions for the period typically between July and September.
Back in January, when there was still hope that atmospheric rivers would develop over the Pacific and deliver quenching rains across the state, fire officials remarked offhandedly that every fire season is predicted to be the worst ever. Three months later, when it was becoming clear that those rains were not going to materialize, the concern became more real.
A number of conditions could spell trouble: historically low levels of moisture in vegetation, a second consecutive year of below average rainfall, and a meager snowpack that melted too early. Runoff either evaporated or was absorbed by the parched ground before it could drain into the creeks and rivers that feed watersheds. That was before the first red-flag days were posted in mid-May.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that officials from Gov. Gavin Newsom to the fire service agencies that serve the Tri-Valley – the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department (LPFD), Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD) and Cal Fire – understand exactly what is at stake and what steps need to be taken to prevent a worst-case scenario.
As Newsom stood at McClellan Air Force Base on Monday, May 24, he described a $2 billion investment in disaster preparedness that included a $536 million dollar early action wildfire package. That package gives the state a head start on projects designed to mitigate wildfire damage.
During recent interviews with The Independent, representatives from LPFD and ACFD talked about the action their respective agencies are taking as wildfire season takes hold. They also stressed the actions that residents should take, particularly those living in fire-prone wildland-urban interface zones. Residents should harden their homes, create defensible space, and consider how they would handle an evacuation should one become necessary.
The fire season may be challenging, but the opportunity to be prepared and understand the risk is also better than ever.