The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has increased staffing levels following an unusually dry start to the 2011-2012, according to a Thursday statement from CAL FIRE.
On Tuesday, the California Department of Water Resources conducted the year's first snow survey and found the statewide water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at just 19 percent of normal.
Despite the fact that many areas are experiencing cooler than normal temperatures, drier than normal conditions coupled with wind events and low humidity have frequently increased the fire danger over the past month. CAL FIRE crews have responded to an increased number of wildfires for a typical December, according to the statement.
"Fire activity in northern California during winter is very rare, where snow covered mountains and rain soaked hillsides typically keep the fire danger relatively low," said CAL FIRE Director Chief Ken Pimlott. "We will be monitoring the rain levels over the next couple months, as it will be an indicator of the type of fire activity spring and summer will bring."
In response to the above normal fire activity, CAL FIRE has been able to increase its staffing using its 4,700 permanent employees with the help of CAL FIRE inmate fire crews, according to the statement. In many areas CAL FIRE has cancelled burn days or even banned debris burning. CAL FIRE asks the public to be extra cautious due to the dry conditions, especially on windy days.