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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

First red flag warning of season issued for area around California capital

The warning was issued by the National Weather Service because of gusty winds and low humidity.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A red flag warning — the first of the season — will go into effect for most of the Sacramento, California, Valley and Sierra foothills late Saturday.

A combination of gusty winds and low humidity led the National Weather Service to issue the warning, which starts at 11 p.m. Saturday and ends at 8 p.m. Sunday. Elevated fire weather conditions will persist beyond Sunday, though the heightened warning will have expired.

“A red flag warning is issued when we could expect critical fire weather,” said Idamis Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the weather service.

The warning includes Sacramento County as well as many surrounding counties or parts of them, including Yolo, Glenn, Colusa, Yuba, Butte, Solano and western Placer counties.

Winds are forecast to reach 10 to 20 mph, with gusts climbing to 25 to 35 mph. The strongest winds will be in the western half of the Sacramento Valley.

Humidity is a factor because low humidity pulls moisture from fire fuels, like grass and pine needles. It’s then easier for those fuels to catch fire and spread.

Temperature, in this case, isn’t a factor in the warning.

The Sacramento area saw triple-digit highs earlier this week, though they’ve since simmered down. Saturday’s high is forecast to hit 89, followed by a high of 90 on Sunday. Highs will slowly rise over the coming workweek, reaching 87 on Monday and 94 on Thursday.

Cal Fire Captain Robert Foxworthy, an information officer for the agency, said the winter rains have resulted in more grass, which is a fire fuel. Southern California has already seen fire activity this season, while Northern California began seeing it about one to two months ago.

Foxworthy wants people to know that the red flag warning means there’s an increased chance for fires to ignite and spread.

“Folks should just be more fire safe,” he added.

People might take the warning as an indicator they should improve their home’s defensible space, Foxworthy said. However, he cautioned against any action that might spark a fire on hot, dry and windy days.

He also said people towing a trailer should ensure no chains are dragging, as the metal on asphalt can cause sparks.

Familiar with fire season, many Californians know what to do when spring and summer arrive. Foxworthy advised those who might not know to visit readyforwildfire.org, which has information about preparation and prevention, among other topics.

Foxworthy said he can never predict the intensity of a fire season.

“This is the joke I like to say — call me in December and I’ll give you a prediction of the fire season,” he said.

The past two years have been less severe than 2020 and 2021, though fires still scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

In 2022, there were 7,477 wildfires, 331,358 acres burned and 1,279 structures either damaged or destroyed. Nine people lost their lives.

Last year saw 7,127 wildfires and 324,917 acres burned. Seventy-one structures were damaged or destroyed, and four people killed.

The years before that saw massive wildfires that ranged across counties.

The year 2020 brought 8,648 wildfires that burned 4.3 million acres. That led to the deaths of 33 people and over 11,000 structures damaged or destroyed.

In 2021, 7,396 fires burned 2.5 million acres, leading to three deaths and 3,846 buildings damaged or destroyed.

Categories / Regional, Weather

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