Chief’s corner: What does a ‘big winter’ mean to fire season |

Chief’s corner: What does a ‘big winter’ mean to fire season

Chief Scott Lindgren
Chief Scott Lindgren

With winter slowly coming to an end, it’s important to understand what having a “big winter” means to fire season and how to prepare to keep your home and community safe.

Keeping our heads above the snow this year has been challenging with a reported 677 inches of snow fall to date. As much as we need the water, there are implications that come along with an enormous snow year. Everyone knows the obvious danger that a dry winter brings, but what about a wet winter? What about a wet winter following an 8+ year drought? The average person sees this as a positive. “We finally got the precipitation we’ve needed.” However, the reality is with more precipitation comes more fuel growth and cause for concern.

This year’s exceptionally wet winter is going to welcome in a bounty of lush and green landscapes, but by summer, this could lead to more fires as vegetation dries out and becomes fuel. If we have more water, we’ll see heavier fuel loads at lower and mid‐elevations, specifically when it comes to grasses. Cheatgrass in particular is a highly flammable and densely growing fuel that increases fire intensity and allows fire to spread fast.

The heavy timber we see in and around the basin has been in shock due to critically low moisture content. Imagine eating only one apple every day for a week and then on day eight trying to eat an entire pizza. Your body will tell you no way. Your stomach has shrunk and it’s going to be impossible. This is how the basin trees feel. It’s going to take a few more winters like this one to get our trees to start absorbing water properly again.

What steps can you take to avoid wildfire? Defensible space and home hardening is the key to protecting your home.

Follow these steps as outlined by the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  • Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce ember
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.
  • Screen or box‐in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles ‐ anything that can burn.
  • Remove anything stored underneath decks and porches.

For more information on how to protect your home, visit

Chief Scott Lindgren joined Tahoe Douglas Fire in 2021 after a 33 year career with the California Fire Service and 24 years with CAL FIRE. His most recent position was Chief of the Amador El Dorado Unit in Camino, CA. In that role, Chief Lindgren was responsible for administration and operation of CAL FIRE resources in Alpine, Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, and San Joaquin counties and the protection of over 1.1 million acres of state lands.

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