Fire season begins with hot, dry weather

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 23, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Record heat and unusually dry winds have prompted fire officials to declare the start of fire season Tuesday throughout California. 

“We’ve got the big three – hot, dry and windy. We’ve had a few grass fires, nothing special, but these are the same conditions that brought you the Oakland fire in October of 1991,” said Karen Terrill, spokeswoman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  

“All it takes is a spark in the wrong place. 

“In that case, it was $1.5 billion in property lost and 3,000 housing units destroyed.” 

At the start of fire season, local CDF offices hire seasonal staff to work on a round-the-clock schedule around the state’s forest districts. 

“That’s unheard of as far as I know, to open the fire season in all 21 ranger districts at the same time, but it means that the conditions are suddenly ripe for wildfire and it’s time to be prepared,” Terrill said. 

Unusually warm, dry and windy weather for May prompted concern. In Sacramento, three records have been set this month: 100 degrees, May 8; 98 degrees, May 9; and 99 degrees on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. 

Monday’s high temperature of 101 in Sacramento ties the record set last year on the same date. Tuesday’s benchmark of 103, also set last year, could be a danger as well, said weather service meteorologist Robert Baruffaldi.