Lack of Rain Spells Above Average Fire Potential for San Diego

It’s been a dry start to 2015 and a just-released study suggests the chance at even near normal rainfall in the next three months is remote. As a result, firefighters around San Diego County may be battling more grass fires this spring.

The Southern California Geographic Coordination Center released its fire outlook report for 2015 on Tuesday.

Based in Riverside, the agency provides analysis on fire risk and danger for fire agencies throughout the region.

Its experts say San Diego-area fire crews may see “a significant spike in new starts with a heavier
grass fire season than the past few years.” There may be enough moisture in the brush to keep fire spread manageable if there is minimal wind, according to the report.

But by the beginning of June, analysts say the large fire potential may begin to climb back to above normal.

NBC 7 Meteorologist Jodi Kodesh said the rainfall story for San Diego is not a positive one for firefighters. Since Jan. 1, San Diego has only seen 0.42 inches of rain.

“Our normal for the month is 2.12 inches so, we are currently 1.70 inches below average,” Kodesh said. “And we will likely not fare well in February.”

December and January are the months when we historically average most of our precipitation. Without it, the dry fuel could cause above average wildfire potential into the summer months, she said.

“All of the new regrowth and long grasses of November and early December will eventually dry,” Kodesh said. “Especially if we see below average rainfall the next three months.”

As for the promise of an El Nino - the official outlook calls for a 50 to 60 percent chance of an El Niño during the next two months. That’s not what a state heading into its fourth year of drought wants to hear.

San Diego was in a similar position last year leading up to the devastating day in May when up to nine wildfires sparked on the same day across the county.

See the report here.

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