CalFire sounds alarm: Get ready for a volatile wildfire season

The Fresno BeeMay 7, 2014 

CalFire, warning of perhaps the most dangerous fire season in state history, cautioned Fresno County residents Wednesday that everyone has a part to play in avoiding disasters like last year's Rim Fire.

The state's wildfire-fighting agency used drought-depleted Millerton Lake as a backdrop for Wednesday's news conference, where CalFire Chief Ken Pimlott said last year's fire season never ended. He said CalFire is already on high alert with the state's snowpack only 18% of normal. CalFire is repeating the message at news conferences around the state to get the message out.

Pimlott underlined the severity of conditions by pointing out that CalFire has battled 1,200 blazes this year, double the average through April.

Pimlott called on foothill and mountain residents to have 100 feet of defensible space around their homes and to used fire-resistant materials for structures. In addition, residents should prepare an emergency supply kit, have an evacuation plan and leave a fire-threatened area as quickly as possible.

Officials also stress that 95% of wildfires are human-caused.

"We've done our part," Pimlott said. "It's time for the public to step up."

Jim Branham of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy said that while the Rim Fire, which destroyed more than 250,000 acres in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties, was a mega-fire by present standards, conditions are ripe for a repeat.

"When conditions line up like that, there is very little even the best fire-fighting forces in the world can do," Branham said. He added that the aftermath can be devastating for the state's water supply because the sediment that washes off fire-ravaged watersheds ends up in reservoirs, cutting storage capacity.

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The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6339, or @jimguy27 on Twitter.

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