Back-to-back subpar snow years are expected to leave the Sierra Nevada high and dry earlier than normal this summer, creating the potential for a very busy fire season, according to area firefighters.
Wildfire potential in the Lake Tahoe Basin, along with much of the Northwest and Southern California, is expected to increase to above normal by June and July, according to an April 1 outlook by the National Interagency Fire Center.
“Fuels continue to be much drier than normal,” according to the outlook. “An earlier start to green up is expected for many areas, and normal snowpack regions are expected to emerge from snow cover several weeks earlier than normal.”
But, with a recent, small fire under the Upper Truckee Bridge in South Lake Tahoe, the fire season is already underway in the basin, said Lake Valley Fire Protection District spokeswoman Leona Allen.
“From everything we’re hearing, it has the potential for being another serious fire season,” Allen said.
Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District spokesman Eric Guevin said firefighters don’t want to preach doom and gloom, but rather responsibility with fire and the danger it poses.
“This season we’re expecting, if the trend continues, a dry and active fire season,” Guevin said.
Dry conditions are only one part of the wildfire equation that includes temperatures, wind and humidity, Guevin said. Because of the dry conditions, people need to be especially cautious of activities that could start a wildfire, Guevin said.
“It depends on what the weather does, and last year we were very, very fortunate,” Guevin said, noting a wildfire last summer near Sewer Plant Road could have been much worse.
Improper disposal of fireplace ashes, barbecue ashes and cigarette butts continue to be common causes of fires, Allen said.
Preparedness is also important part to staying safe, according to the firefighters. Both Guevin and Allen encouraged people to be prepared in case of an evacuation and complete defensible space work as soon as possible.