Fire Conditions in 2015 Are Worst on Record, Cal Fire Says

Cal Fire firefighters have responded to more than 2,300 fires so far in 2015.

Four years of drought and a lack of recent rain have created the worst fire conditions on record in California, Cal Fire said.

The timing of rain as California heads into its fourth year of drought have created escalated fire conditions.

"The danger is always there. We're not getting the rains, the fuels are dry, they're volatile," Cal Fire Captain Kendall Bortisser said.

Throughout the state, firefighters with Cal Fire have responded to 2,386 fires from January to June 20, 2015, according to their website. From January to June 20 in 2014, Cal Fire responded to 2,030 fires. The average for 2014 from January to June in San Diego, Bortisser said, is fewer than 650.

From January to June collectively over the last five years, the numbers are down. 

But Bortisser said that doesn't mean we aren't going to have a bad fire season this year.

"We can't be lead into believing that we're not in any kind of danger without any threat," Bortisser said.  

He said he believes San Diegans have learned from the past and are preparing themselves and their homes which helps firefighters.

That is a much-needed measure, he said, because of another problem: bark beetles. During the big fires, like the 2003 Cedar Fire, the bark beetles killed oak trees in the backcountry and that helped the fire spread. 

"40 percent of the oak trees here in San Diego County are being devoured by the gold spotted oakboro beetle and they're getting in there, they're killing the trees making them one more fuel," Bortisser said.

One thing residents can do, Bortisser said, is to remove parts of their lawn as they dry up.

As water becomes scarcer in the state, fire officials said, they asked residents to conserve.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story included numbers from May 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most recent numbers. The Awareness event mentioned in the previous version took place in May as well. 

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